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university of 




BOOK 653. G86 c 1 



3 1153 00DMEMT3 1 

'his bo~k may be kept 







Art must have a scientific basis. Shorthand 
not only has this scientific basis, but it is a 
science in and of itself. — Isaac S. Dement. 





Confronted by a new invention an American almost 
invariably asks: "Will it work? " Until satisfied on that 
point, he is seldom interested in the mechanical principles 
on which the invention is constructed. But when the in- 
vention has been demonstrated to be a real advance, he 
wants to take the motor apart to see how it works. 

This will explain why so little has been written about 
the scientific basis of Gregg Shorthand. The policy pur- 
sued in presenting the claims of the system was that of 
concentrating attention on the results accomplished by its 
students and writers. Even after Gregg Shorthand had 
achieved the most extraordinary success ever attained by 
any system in the history of shorthand, I was too busily 
engaged in the production of textbooks and magazines, and 
in the building of a publishing organization, to respond to 
the demand for a detailed explanation of the scientific 
principles on which the system was constructed. At odd 
moments, as opportunity offered and as the mood dictated, 
I made shorthand notations for a series of articles on the 
subject. A few of the articles were published in the Gregg 
Shorthand Magazine (England) some years ago, but the 
reduction in the size of that magazine on account of war 
conditions rendered it necessary to discontinue the series. 
Since then so many teachers and writers of the system, on 
both sides of the Atlantic, have urged me to complete the 
series that I decided to do so, and to publish them in 
book form. 



The fact that the articles were first written for a maga- 
zine published in England will explain to American readers 
the numerous references to Isaac Pitman Shorthand, a sys- 
tem which is now little used in America outside of New 
York City and some parts of Canada, and also why so 
many quotations from well-known authors and writers of 
other systems are used in support of each principle ex- 
pounded. In giving these quotations I had in mind the 
fact that in England there is more reverence for " pre- 
cedent " and " authority " than is the case in this country. 

After reading this book in proof form, one of the most 
capable supporters of our system said: " The explanation 
of curvilinear motion as a basic principle in the construc- 
tion of the system was a revelation to me. What puzzles 
me is why you made that feature so prominent in the 
Preface of your very first edition and have practically 
ignored it in recent editions." 

The explanation I gave was that for many years my 
problem was to " convert " teachers of other systems, and 
in doing this I found it best to move along the lines of 
least resistance by dealing chiefly with things that were 
familiar to writers and teachers of the older systems. In 
discussing the system question I began, for example, with 
the elimination of shading or thickening. As all teachers 
and writers of the old-style systems had experienced the 
difficulty of observing the distinction between thick and 
thin characters, and knew that the thickening of a char- 
acter was an obstacle to rapid writing, they were willing 
to admit that the elimination of thickened characters 
would be an advantage, " other things being equal." 

The next step was to explain that the vowels were 
written in the outline. The difficulty of inserting vowels 
after the " consonantal skeleton " had been written, and 
the difficulty of reading shorthand when the vowels were 


omitted, were so obvious that most teachers were willing 
to admit with the usual qualifying expression that the in- 
sertion of the vowels would be an advantage. 

The third step was to gain an admission that the placing 
of words in various positions with relation to the line was 
an obstacle to rapid writing and to phrase-writing. This 
generally elicited the most hearty expressions of concur- 
rence of any principle presented. 

Up to this point we were dealing with things that were 
familiar to them. When I attempted to go beyond these 
three principles, I found that Bagehot was right when he 
said, M One of the greatest pains to humanity is the 
pain of a new idea. It is so 'upsetting' — you do not 
know at once which of your old ideas it will or will not 
turn out.'' 

Much experience convinced me that it was a mistake in 
tactics to dwell very long upon the other principles of the 
system, such as the Longhand Movement. Curvilinear 
Motion, or Lineality, except perhaps in an incidental way. 
Any stress placed upon features of the system that were 
absolutely new and unfamiliar to teachers and writers of 
the old-style systems would be so " upsetting " and con- 
fusing to them, and therefore so provocative of argument, 
as to nullify the progress made up to that point. 

The objective to be gained was the creation of a desire 
to study the system. To accomplish this it was best to 
show them how the system eliminated certain specific diffi- 
culties or defects in the system they used. If they did 
study the system, the advantages obtained from the other 
features of the system would gradually, but inevitably, be- 
come clear to them as soon as they could write the system 
on connected matter. 

In reading this, many hundreds of teachers and writers 
of the system who formerly wrote other systems will 


doubtless remember the various mental reactions which oc- 
curred during the period of transition from the Old to the 
New, and will smile appreciatively at this explanation of 
the process. 

As these articles have been written at various times, and 
sometimes under pressure, they may lack the unity of 
plan and treatment which is desirable in a work of this 
kind. I believe, however, that those interested in short- 
hand as an art and a science will find them helpful in 
tracing the process of the evolution of the art of short- 
hand toward principles that are logical and natural to the 
mind and characters and movements that are natural to 
the hand. 

John Robert Gregg 
New York, 1922 



I. Longhand as a Basis of Shorthand 1 

II. Curvilinear Motion 18 

III. Blended Consonants 25 

IV. The Evils of Shading 35 

V. The Evolution of Shading 45 

VI. "To Shade or Not to Shade" 62 

VII. Joined Vowels 71 

VIII. More About Vowel Expression 83 

IX. Joined Vowels as Speed Factors 98 

X. Some Humorous Errors 112 

XL The "Position-Writing" Expedient 123 

XII. Lineality an Important Factor , 131 

XIII. Resume of the Seven Basic Principles 140 

XIV. The Sounds to be Expressed 151 

XV. Economies in the L"se of Shorthand Material. . . 163 

XVI. The Evaluation of the Sounds 178 

XVII. Application of the Basic Principles in the Repre- 
sentation of Consonants 192 

XVIII. Application of the Basic Principles in the Repre- 
sentation of Vowels 209 

XIX. The Evolution of Shorthand Principles 217 

Index of Writers or Authors Quoted or Mentioned 238 




I am persuaded that the true progress of shorthand — the 
real solution of the difficulties surrounding it — is to be found 
in an attentive study of our ordinary longhand writing. 

Thomas Anderson, in History of Shorthand (1882) 

In reading some of the letters which were received while 
I was on a trip to Australia, I found a very interesting para- 
graph in a letter from Mr. John A. Bell of Glasgow. 

As the paragraph in Mr. Bell's letter suggests an inter- 
esting topic, I am going to use it as a text, as it were, for 
the first of a series of articles on the scientific principles 
underlying the system. Mr. Bell writes: 

In reading over this month's Magazine I could not 
but admire the beautifully written page on the Fauna 
of the Alps. I remember when I was studying architecture 
for an art certificate a number of years ago being struck by 
a remark made by a writer who was comparing Greek and 
Roman architecture. He said that the reason why Greek ar- 
chitecture was more beautiful than Roman was that it was 
based on the ellipse, which, on account of its variety, is im- 
pelling to the eye. Do you see the point? That is the 
reason for the pleasure which a page of Gregg gives if one 
has looked over several pages of Pitman. 

It is needless to say that, like Mr. Bell, every writer of 
the system finds delight in the artistic beauty of its forms 



and in the easy, natural character of the writing. These 
qualities are commented on again and again in the letters 
we receive. But doubtless few writers have tried, as Mr. 
Bell has done, to find definite reasons for either the artistic 
qualities of the system or its easy-writing qualities. 

As the derivation of them may be interesting to our 
friends, I am going to discuss them in a series of articles. 
In doing this I intend, first, to explain the general basic 
principles of the system, and, second, to show how these 
fundamental principles have been applied in the selection 
and arrangement of the alphabet. It is necessary to have 
a clear understanding of the entire plan of structure as a 
whole to appreciate the working out of the details. I hope, 
therefore, that if you are interested in the subject, you will 
read the explanation of each basic principle, and carefully 
weigh its relative importance to the whole plan. If you 
do this I believe you will find a new interest in the system, 
and be able to give convincing reasons for the faith that is 
within you. 

The Fundamental Difference. — 

The fundamental difference between geometric shorthand 
and Gregg Shorthand is this: Geometric shorthand is 
based on the circle and its segments; Gregg is based on 
the ellipse^ or oval. 

As geometric shorthand is based on the circle, its charac- 
ters are supposed to be drawn with geometric precision, 
and are struck in all directions. The characters, being 
struck in all directions, necessitate continual change in 
the position of the hand while writing. 

As Gregg Shorthand is based on the ellipse or oval, it 
is written with a uniform slope, as in longhand. Its char- 
acters are, therefore, familiar and natural to the hand, and 
like longhand do not require a change in the position of the 
hand while writing. When we say, "with a uniform slope as 


in longhand" we do not mean any particular slope; we sim- 
ply mean that whatever slope is adopted the writing is uni- 
form in slope — not zig-zag. This is understood by all 
writers of the system, but I consider it advisable to include 
the statement here, as an effort is being made to represent 
us as insisting upon a particular slope. 

Short-Writing or Short-Drawing? — Geometric short- 
hand has been described as a rapid drawing of characters, 
while Gregg Shorthand has been described as a rapid writ- 
ing. That the affinity of geometric shorthand to drawing 
is fully recognized by the advocates of that style, will be 
clear from the following quotations. 

Isaac Pitman, in the seventh edition of his Manual said: 

The student should be careful not to hold the pen as for 
common writing, for this position of the hand is adapted 
for the formation of letters constructed upon a totally differ- 
ent principle from those of Phonography. The pen should 
be held loosely in the hand, like a pencil for drawing, with 
the nib turned in such a manner that the letter "b" can be 
struck with ease. 

In a series of articles on " Aids and Hindrances to Short- 
hand Writing " in Pitman's Shorthand Weekly, Mr. Alfred 
Kingston said: 

I have frequently noticed that the shorthand student 
skilled in drawing always makes the best start upon the 
shorthand alphabet. The student should be encouraged, 
therefore, to treat the preliminary work of mastering the 
simple geometric forms, and especially the curves, as 
something really in the nature of a drawing lesson, and to 
draw them as carefully and accurately as possible at the 

Andrew J. Graham, author of the most successful Ameri- 
can modification of Pitman's Shorthand, in the Introduc- 
tion to Part Two of his "Standard Phonography, " said: 


The position given to the pen and hand in backhand 
writing seems best adapted for the easy and graceful forma- 
tion of phonographic characters. The pen should be held 
very loosely, so that the nib may be readily turned and 
suited to the execution of characters made in various 

These quotations will prove that the geometric style 
of shorthand is admitted to resemble a drawing — not a 
writing — of characters. 

Although they do not bear directly on the question 
of the drawing or the writing of the characters, the views 
expressed by very prominent Pitman reporters about the 
comparative facility of the back slope and forward slope 
characters may be of interest at this point. 

Mr. Henry M. Parkhurst, one of the most prominent of 
the early pioneers of a Pitman's Phonography," and the 
" Spelling Reform " in America, said: 

The stroke for p [a back-slope character in Pitman] can- 
not be struck with the same ease as ch [a stroke like our ;] 
because the muscles of the fingers naturally move in the 
direction of the latter stroke, and not in the direction of 
the former. The cords, muscles, etc., all strain from 
the inside of the limbs; and consequently all those who use 
the right hand in writing can write with greater rapidity 
and endure longer in writing from right to left than they 
can in writing from left to right. 

Mr. George R. Bishop, for many years an official reporter 
of the New York Stock Exchange, and formerly President 
of the New York State Stenographed Association, in dis- 
cussing the various shorthand characters, said: 

The directions or slopes of some strokes are quite differ- 
ent from any to which the ringers become accustomed by 
writing ordinary longhand; the muscles therefore require to 
be trained to these unfamiliar movements and directions by 
much practice. 


The famous reporter, David Wolfe Brown, for many 
years one of the staff of official reporters of the House of 
Representatives, Washington, in his book, "Mastery of 
Shorthand, " which was published by the Phonographic 
Institute Company (publishers of Benn Pitman Shorthand), 

Even in those rare cases where the phonographic pupil 
shows by his ordinary penmanship not only an eye for truth 
and beauty of form, but a real facility of hand, it is a facil- 
ity adapted exclusively to the peculiar forms and inclination 
of the longhand characters; and there remains great need 
for special manual discipline by reason of the variety of 
forms and directions of the shorthand characters. 

Mr. Brown expands this thought in his popular book, 
"The Factors of Shorthand Speed": 

In the shorthand writers manual discipline the first 
step is to get rid of certain habits often acquired in long- 
hand, and which, unless corrected, must make high steno- 
graphic speed a physical impossibility. It may be desirable, 
for a time at least, that longhand practice be as far as pos- 
sible suspended, so that a new set of manual habits may be 
the more easily acquired. 

One of the habits which shorthand writers need especially 
to overcome arises from the peculiar slant of the longhand 
characters. ... As the shorthand characters are written in 
almost every direction — probably more of them with a 
backward inclination, or with a horizontal motion, than 
with a forward slope — the hand and fingers, in being edu- 
cated for shorthand writing, must be emancipated from 
the fixed position to which they have been accustomed 
in longhand. 

From these extracts it will be seen that, instead of pre- 
vious experience and training in the writing of longhand 
being regarded as an advantage to the student of geometric 
shorthand, it is declared by these high authorities to be an 


obstacle. To do good work in geometric shorthand the 
student is told that he must " get rid of certain habits ac- 
quired in longhand/' and his "hand and fingers must be 
emancipated from the position to which they have been 
accustomed in longhand." 

The Logical Deduction. — If what these eminent 
authors and reporters say is true — and what advocate of 
Pitman Shorthand will challenge their statements ? — then 
the student or writer of a system founded on longhand, re- 
quiring the same position of hand and fingers, and the same 
movements as longhand, starts on the study with a tre- 
mendous initial advantage over the student or writer of 
geometric shorthand. 

" The planets move in elliptic orbits." We claim that the 
ellipse is a more scientific basis for a system of brief writ- 
ing than the circle. 1 Our beautiful Roman writing is based 
on the ellipse, or oval, and being the outcome of a process 
of evolution that has been going on for centuries, it repre- 
sents the "survival of the fittest" in the movements and 
characters best adapted to the hand. As Benn Pitman says 
in his "Life and Labors of Sir Isaac Pitman," our present 
writing is "but the culmination and fruition of a series of 
experiments, changes and improvements which were com- 
menced in the very childhood of civilization, and which have 
been uninterruptedly continued to the present time. 
From the earliest pictorial and hieroglyphic symbols . . . 
there has been an unending series of experiments and im- 
provements, and each step has been received with more or 
less of hesitancy and distrust because of the inconvenience 
attending a change of habit. . . . The simplest, most 
convenient, and most reasonable way of doing anything is 
usually the last to come, but when the right thing is ac- 

1 Mr. William A. Crane, author of "Crane's Script Shorthand" 
(1884), declared that "all graceful motion is elliptical." 


cepted it seems amazing that the inferior and imperfect 
one should have been tolerated, much less loved and ten- 
aciously adhered to." [There is an almost prophetic ring 
about that last sentence!] 

The Benefits Admitted. — If it be true that the move- 
ments and characters used for longhand writing have been 
adopted because they are easy and natural to the hand, we 
believe that it does not require argument to prove that the 
same easy, natural movements and characters are the logical 
basis of a briefer style of writing. Indeed, nearly all 
authors and expert writers of geometric shorthand have 
been willing to acknowledge this, but have asserted that, 
on account of the limited shorthand material, it was im- 
possible to construct a practical system on such a basis. 

At the first International Shorthand Congress, in 1887, 
Professor J. D. Everett, author of " Everett's Shorthand for 
General Use," a geometric system, acknowledged that, " to 
employ characters which slope all one way is advantageous 
in so far as it enables the writer to make a given number 
of movements in a given time." 

And Edwin Guest, the author of " Compendious Short- 
hand," a geometric system, in a discussion at one of the 
meetings of The Shorthand Society, London, is reported to 
have frankly admitted that, "if any script system could be 
written with only double the number of strokes in a geo- 
metric system, he was prepared to admit the advantage 
was in favor of the script system." 

In 1888 Mr. Thomas Allen Reed, the most famous of all 
the English champions of Pitman's Shorthand, in referring 
to some shorthand notes which had been contrasted as to 
brevity , with longhand, at one of the meetings of The Short- 
hand Society, London, is reported to have said that he 
thought " Dr. Gower had overlooked one point — the ad- 
vantage of the one slope " in the longhand specimen. 


The Reporters' Journal (England), January, 1891, in 
giving reasons for objecting to the suggested substitution of 
the downward (backslope) r for the upward r before m 
(a suggestion which has since been adopted by Isaac Pit- 
man & Sons) said: 

We are, nevertheless, as firmly convinced as ever that 
the upward r is struck, either alone or in combination, very 
much easier and with greater facility than its downward 

The very act of having to draw the pen backward tells 
against the downward r, and surely phonographers can 
quickly ascertain for themselves the more advantageous 
outline by writing each for the same space of time. 

A Convincing Demonstration. — In a paper on " The 
True Theory of Shorthand, " read before the Shorthand 
Society, London, Mr. Thomas Anderson, author of the 
"History of Shorthand," stated the absurdity of zig-zag 
writing very effectively: 

I am not now raising the question whether writing on 
the slope from right to left, or writing perpendicularly, or 
nearly so, or, again, writing on the back slope, is the 
quicker or quickest method of writing. I say I do not now 
raise that question. I give no opinion on it — nor am I con- 
cerned what may be the decision regarding it. 

But this I do earnestly and strenuously maintain, that the 
attempt to write in these three different directions at one 
and the same time is absurd. Just take the word absurd 

as an example. It is a good word for the purpose. Now 
if I am to write the "a" on the common slope, the "b" on 
the back slope, and the "s" straight up and down, and 
follow any other variety of the same changes with the other 
letters of the word, namely, "u," "r," "d," then I make 


bold to say that the word and the thing signified are both 
demonstrated in the same form — a form with which you 
offend the eye, as well as threaten dislocation to the hand. 

It is idle to answer that the habit is followed by 
thousands of shorthand writers without much difficulty, 
or it may be said even with ease. Granted. What then? 
The praise is to the hand, which, as Aristotle has well said, 
is "the instrument of instruments." We are not, however, 
entitled on that account to visit it with an unnecessary 

I may, in concluding my observations under this head, 
allude to the fact that an inspection of any paleographical 
folios will show, on a comparison of the ruder forms of 
writing with the more modern in almost all languages, a 
tendency to have the characters all on the one slope. 
The fact is interesting rather than here important, but if 
anyone cares to turn over the princely tomes of Silvester 
in his "Paleographique Universelle," he will perceive this to 
be very noticeable. 

The famous journalist, editor, author, and Member of 
Parliament, Mr. T. P. O'Connor, in writing on the subject 
of shorthand in the Weekly Sun, London, said: 

I am not an entire believer in the Pitman system of 
shorthand; but as I began with it I never tried to change. 
... I have known very few Pitman writers whose notes 
could be read by anybody else, and I have known a great 
many — including myself — who found it very difficult to read 
their own notes. . . . 

It strikes me now, that the system is best which can 
be made most like the ordinary longhand. Obviously the 
same muscles, the same nerves, the same attitudes, all 
that conglomeration of causes, open and latent, which 
provide the peculiarities of one's longhand will be em- 
ployed in producing the shorthand. In other words one 
will write his shorthand as he does his longhand. 

Put Into Figures. — In an article on " The ' One Slope ' 
Theory in Shorthand," Mr. G. C. Mares stated the practical 


advantages obtained from uniformity of slope in a very 
convincing way: 

It will be evident to the vast majority of shorthand 
writers that in Pitman Shorthand many words can be writ- 
ten much faster than others, even though the number of 
pen strokes and ineffective movements (lifts) are the same. 
Thus the word cherry can be written faster than pity, 
reject is more facile than shave, although it has an additional 
stroke, and the same may be said of hundreds of other 
words. What causes the difference in facility? The answer 
is that cherry, reject, are written on the " one slope," 
whilst pity, 1 shave, employ back strokes. At the commence- 
ment, then, we see that an advantage exists in favor 
of one-slope writing; but no one has yet, I believe, shown 
the existence of this advantage. I will, therefore, invite 
attention to the following figures: 

(a) A rapid penman can write 30 words a minute; each 
word containing on an average of 16 movements — 16 X 30 
equals 480 longhand strokes a minute. 

(b) The limit of the power of the hand to form short' 
hand strokes, is, at the outside figure, 300 a minute; 300 to 
480 shows 60 per cent in favor of longhand strokes. 

(c) As the formation of shorthand strokes requires more 
care than longhand, on account of the necessary observ- 
ance of length, thickness, etc., an allowance of, say 25 
per cent must be made, and this, with an allowance of 10 
per cent for loss of brevity (if any) as compared with 
other systems, will leave us 25 per cent advantage in the 
matter of facility of execution gained by the use of one- 
sloped or longhand signs or strokes. . . . 

All Natural Writing Elliptical. — It has been said that 
it is impossible for the human hand to make a perfect 
circle in rapid writing. On the other hand, elliptic 
figures are natural and easy to the hand ; indeed, the making 
of an ellipse or oval is one of the first exercises given a 

1 The obtuse angle in pity is partly responsible for the slowness 
with which the outline is written. 


child in learning ordinary writing. As a writer on the 
subject has said: 

No alphabet on the radii of the circle with its various 
arcs can be easy to write. The circle is the most difficult of 
all simple forms. It is astonishing that modern inventors 
of shorthand should have overlooked the experience of all na- 
tions in the writing of longhand, and therefore, it is clear 
that the efforts to secure speed have developed the forms em- 
ployed away from the circle into arcs and axes of the inclined 
ellipse. No hand at rest can rapidly execute the circle, while 
all easy movements of the arm, hand and fingers resting 
on the paper form the lines of the ellipses. Is it not remarka- 
ble that after having based the alphabet on the circle 
Pitman should say in the "Reporters' Companion," "Theo- 
retically, every line employed in phonography is a light 
line or an arc of some circle. Practically all light lines 
become to fluent writers portions of ellipses. The most 
continuous line that can be described is the flattened 
ellipse. The greater the velocity, the flatter the arc." 

The older script, cursive, graphic, scripthand, or pasi- 
graphic systems — as they are variously termed — claimed 
to be " founded on longhand. " That claim was based on 
the fact that they rejected vertical and back-slope char- 
acters, and were written with a " uniform slope." The 
title page of one of the first of these systems, that of 
Richard Roe, published in 1802, described it as " A new 
system of Shorthand in which legibility and brevity are 
secured upon the most natural principles, especially by the 
singular property of their sloping all one way according to 
the habitual motion of the hand in common writing. " This 
is the claim of all the systems on that basis — there is 
little change in the wording. 

While uniformity of slope is very important, it is but one 
of the virtues of longhand writing, and it is a question 
whether or not it is the most important one. Let us con- 
sider some of the other qualities of longhand. 


Other Longhand Features. — In longhand writing there 
is no compulsory shading or thickening of the characters. 

Prior to the appearance of Gregg Shorthand nearly all 
the systems claiming to be " founded on longhand " had 
shading or thickening of the characters. Some, indeed, had 
shaded upward characters, and shaded horizontal char- 
acters — even shaded small circles and shaded hooks! If 
we accept longhand as our model — if we are absolutely 
sincere about it — we are bound to acknowledge that free- 
dom from compulsory shading is just as important as is 
the uniform slope. 

In longhand writing the words are not placed in several 
positions with relation to the line of writing. 

Prior to the appearance of Gregg Shorthand, many of 
the systems said to be " founded on longhand " had words 
placed in three or more positions — on the line, above the 
line, and through or below the line. Here, again, if we 
accept longhand as our model, we are bound to acknowledge 
that the use of several different " positions " for distinguish- 
ing words is not admissible. 

In longhand writing all the letters, vowels, and consonants 
are joined. 

But some of the systems claiming to be " founded on 
longhand " (notably " Sonography," by Rev. D. S. Davies, 
and " English Script Shorthand," by John Westby-Gibson) 
expressed the vowels by disjoined signs after the consonantal 
skeleton of the word was completed. 

There are other features in many of the systems said to 
be "based on longhand" prior to the publication of Gregg 
Shorthand, which were inconsistent with that claim. Among 
these may be mentioned the presence of many obtuse 
angles, which do not occur in longhand. I intend to speak 
of these things later. 

A Process of Evolution. — I should be sorry if you 


gained the impression from what I have said that I am 
attempting to disparage previous endeavors at the construc- 
tion of a system on natural lines. This is not the case. 
I am simply explaining certain fundamental differences 
between the structure of our system and the systems that 
preceded it. 

The following quotation from the " Story of Gregg Short- 
hand/' as told at the Silver Jubilee meetings (and afterwards 
published in pamphlet form) will show that I have always 
been ready to pay a tribute to preceding authors: 

I regard that alphabet as a natural evolution of the best 
principles of all systems mentioned. In its making, there- 
fore, credit is due to the great shorthand authors of the 
past, whose genius cleared the path for progress. The 
chief distinction I claim for Gregg Shorthand is that while 
other systems embody one or more natural principles — 
such as absence of shading or position of writing, or uni- 
form slant, or lineal, continuous movement, or connective 
vowels — Gregg Shorthand is the only system embodying all 
these natural features. And it is the only system, I ven- 
ture to say, that satisfies the eye with the freedom and 
gracefulness of its forms. 

In the course of this series of articles I hope to make it 
clear that there has been a gradual evolution toward a 
system that would be " the distilled essence of our common 

I have often heard advocates of Pitmanic Shorthand dis- 
pose of other systems with a contemptuous expression, and 
then mention several systems that were once fairly well- 
known, but have now declined in popularity, as proof of 
the superiority of Pitman. That is very superficial reason- 
ing. It is on a par with the shortsightedness of the people 
who ridiculed the early inventors of the aeroplane because 
their first air flights were not entirely successful. To the 
thoughtful investigator even the partial success of systems 


founded on principles entirely different from those of Pit- 
man has great significance. It would be easy to demonstrate 
that each of these systems succeeded in almost exact pro- 
portion to the degree in which it contained natural writing 
features, and failed to attain greater success because it 
retained or extended the use of certain unnatural writing 
features. In some instances these systems, while incorporat- 
ing one or two longhand features, pushed the use of prin- 
ciples or expedients opposed to longhand to a much greater 
extreme than is done in the Pitman system. 

A Prediction Fulfilled. — Mr. Thomas Anderson, who 
was for many years a reporter in the Law Courts of Glas- 
gow (using the Pitman system), and who wrote a very 
valuable and scholarly " History of Shorthand," expressed 
this opinion: 

To make shorthand what it ought to be, it must follow the 
track of the longhand writing, be all written on the one 
slope, and make no difference between thin and thick 
strokes, while describing accurately the vowels 

I believe that such a system would, in the course of a 
few years effect a comparatively universal change, by the 
side of which the results attained by the Pitman plan in the 
course of the last fifty years would look anything but 

Considering the date at which it was written — 1882 — 
this was a remarkable prediction. 

One of the beliefs of shorthand inventors and of others 
who are enthusiastic about the benefits to be derived from 
the widespread study and practice of shorthand, is that 
it will eventually take the place of longhand to a very large 
extent. That belief is a very reasonable one. 

For many years there was printed on the covers of Isaac 
Pitman's books the following extract from an article which 
appeared in the English Review: 


" Who that is much in the habit of writing has not often 
wished for some means of expressing by two or three dashes 
of the pen that which, as things are, it requires such an 
expenditure of time and labor to commit to paper? Our 
present mode of communication must be felt to be cumber- 
some in the last degree; unworthy of these days of inven- 
tion. We require some means of bringing the operations 
of the mind, and of the hand, into closer correspondence. " 

If that was true fifty years ago, it is even more true of 
conditions today. There is an ever-increasing pressure, 
and it does seem absurd that we should be obliged to con- 
tinue to employ the cumbrous forms of longhand when a 
briefer method is at our disposal. Articles have been pub- 
lished demonstrating that millions of hours a day could 
be saved by the general use of shorthand in correspondence 
and in making notations. But it has been recognized as a 
fact — an extraordinary and inexplicable fact — that many 
of those who know shorthand are not inclined to use it in 
their literary and other work. It has been noted also that 
writers of our system are much more inclined to use short- 
hand in this way than are the writers of the older styles. 
In our own offices, f:or instance, nearly all the managers of 
departments jot down in shorthand the answers to letters 
on the back of the letters, and hand them to the stenog- 
raphers instead of dictating, and this plan is followed in 
much of the correspondence between offices and in the 
composition of articles, advertisements, etc. Even the re- 
ports of our travelling representatives are made in short- 
hand — the original report in shorthand being sent to the 
manager of the local office, and a carbon copy sent to the 
General Sales Manager in the Executive Department. 

Shorthand for Personal Use. — Speaking offhand one 
would say that the mental attitude which induces such a 
large percentage of writers of our system to use shorthand 


more freely and confidently as a personal time-saving in- 
strument, as compared with the small percentage of writers 
of the older systems who do so, is due to the greater 
legibility of our system on account of the insertion of 
vowels, the absence of shading, and position writing — all 
of which make the writing more easy and natural. All 
these things contribute a good deal, because they create 
confidence and relieve the mind of much conscious effort; 
but there is another reason, which is probably more impor- 
tant still. It will be found in an article by a distinguished 
shorthand reporter who was also an author of distinction. 

Some years ago the Phonographic World published a 
series of articles on "How Authors Write," and the late 
Philander Deming, who was an author of distinction as well 
as a shorthand reporter, said: 

With slight exceptions, my literary work has been done 
with the pen. . . . This is done without any rule and with- 
out thought about it. But the strong tendency is, when I am 
most intent upon my work, to use only longhand forms. I 
suppose this is because the longhand is made up by the 
repetition of so small a number of radical elements. You 
will call to mind the fact that the Spencerian analysis 
and system of penmanship shows us that the working letters 
(the small letters) of our common writing are formed of 
only four radical elements. These four elements form 
the entire alphabet. The result of this formation is that, 
while it requires considerable muscular action to write 
longhand, the work of writing calls for very little attention 
on the part of the mind of the writer. . . . 

Phonography is based upon twelve radical elements. 
The writing, therefore, is not a continual choice from 
among four elements, but from among twelve, and this 
rapid choosing among so many is difficult and the work is 
complex. Hence, the writer has to give his attention to the 
form in writing them, and this continues to be true, how- 
ever extensive his experience in writing phonography may 
have been. The moment a writer becomes deeply inter- 


ested in his subject he forgets to write shorthand; his pen 
glides unconsciously into the longhand forms. It will be 
remembered that Charles Dickens was a shorthand writer. 
He reported the debates in Parliament, and he has de- 
scribed his struggles in learning shorthand in a well-known 
and often-quoted story — and yet all his literary work was 
done in longhand writing. 

To the thoughtful reader this quotation may have a great 
deal of significance. It represents a phase of this subject 
which is seldom given any consideration. In using our 
system there is greater mental freedom than there is in 
writing geometric shorthand, because, like longhand, the 
writing in our system consists of a few familiar elements. 

In the next chapter I shall discuss what I believe to be 
the most important element of either longhand or short- 
hand writing. It is not longhand slope, connective vowels, 
absence of shading, or the elimination of position writing. 
It is seldom mentioned, but it is, nevertheless, the greatest 
feature of the system — the one which, above all others, 
distinguishes it from all other systems. Can you guess 
what it is ? 


Motion in curves is more beautiful than that in straight 
lines, both because of the greater beauty of the curved 
line and because curvilinear motion indicates less effort. 

— Dr. Francis Wayland 

A good curve is not uniform in curvature, but curves most 
near one end. — John Ruskin 

In closing the preceding chapter I said that my next 
talk would be about "the most important element of either 
longhand or shorthand. " 

That element is the predominance of curve motion. This 
feature is probably the most radical departure from the 
older lines of shorthand construction to be found in the 
system. Curiously enough, its importance has not been 
fully appreciated by many writers and teachers, although, 
when the system w r as first published, many shorthand 
authors and others interested in the scientific aspect of 
shorthand recognized it to be an extremely radical step. 

A New Idea. — The distinguished French shorthand 
author and reporter, M. Jean P. A. Martin, of Lyons, wrote 
me under date of June 24, 1888 — Less than a month after 
the publication of " Light-Line Phonography, " as Gregg 
Shorthand was then called — and the very day he received 
a copy of my first book: 

The postman has brought me your book this morning. 
... I can but think well of a system that embodies all 
the ideas defended by me time and again, and is mainly 



constructed after the principles laid down by Conen de 
Prepean, the real founder of continental shorthand. 

There is, however, a point that is quite new to me; I 
mean the predominance given by you to curve motion. 
Whilst Mr. Clement Gourju in his Semiographie, and Mrs. 
De Wik Potel in her Dewikagraphie, endeavored to do 
away with all consonantal curves, whilst nearly all of us have 
criticized large curves (I say the large ones, and not the 
small ones), you have taken an opposite view of the case. 

I am glad you have, because I have no doubt you will 
soon produce reporters, and their notes will be of value 
to shorthand scientists. We shall better be able to form 
an opinion on the advisability of predominant curve mo- 
tion in shorthand writing. We shall watch your progress 
with great interest. We look upon your system as a 
very valuable experiment. You are the exponent of an 
idea, and we love ideas when they are carried into actual 
practice. . . . 

I shall ever be glad to give my support to men who fight 
for the supremacy of the sound principles established by 
Conen de Prepean. It is not because your shorthand prin- 
ciples are French; it is because they are scientific, and Sci- 
ence knows no borders, no nationalities; it is human." 

Writing me again on July 30, 1888, M. Martin said: 

We do everything we can in order to diminish the number 
of curves in our representation. You do the very reverse: 
you remove nearly all the straight lines from the conso- 
nantal alphabet. The point at issue must be settled through 
experience, through practice. You now understand why 
Shorthand Scientists are anxious to see the notes of several 
Light-Line Phonographers written at a speed of over 120 
words a minute. They want to know what will be the effect 
of the predominant curve motion on a page of shorthand. 
Of course, there is no question about this or that system; 
we do not care about systems. Scientifically speaking, we 
study ideas, principles, and see what results they yield, no 
matter the alphabet. And I can but repeat what I said be- 
fore: yours is a new idea. Light-Line Phonography is, in our 
opinion a very valuable experiment which all persons who 


are studying the Science of Shorthand cannot fail to watch 
with great interest. 

At this point it may be interesting to quote what I said 
on this subject in the preface to the first edition of " Light- 
Line Phonography/'' in describing the " main features M of 
the system: 

The Predominance of Curve Motion 

Curves, the prevailing element of ordinary penmanship, 
being more facile than straight lines, the author has, so far 
as is compatible with a well-balanced alphabet, assigned 
to them the representation of the most frequently recurring 
consonants. In addition to this, the straight characters have 
been so arranged that the most frequently recurring com- 
binations of letters form an obtuse angle at their point of 
junction, and such angle not being observed, the letters 
are allowed to coalesce naturally in the form of a large 
curve; thus curve motion has its rightful preponderance, 
the maximum of facility obtainable from this source is 
secured, and the system is freed from the unnatural zig-zag 
motion of the ordinary shorthand. 

This is expressed in somewhat pretentious language — I 
was very young then! — but it shows that recognition of the 
prevalence of curves in longhand writing was an important 
factor in the construction of the system. 

In my earlier experiments at shorthand construction I 
followed the beaten path. The result was an angular style 
of writing — a truly " script-geometric style," as someone 
described it. This realization that curvilinear motion was 
the greatest of all the elements of longhand writing placed 
me on the path which led to " Light-Line Phonography " 
and it is the feature of the system to which, more than to 
any other, is due its wonderful success. 

The Combination Principle. — Those who have read 
the " Story of Gregg Shorthand " as told at the Silver 
Jubilee meetings (and afterwards published in pamphlet 


form) will remember the emphasis placed upon the dis- 
covery of the combination principle, as distinguished from 
the assignment of characters to the letters in accordance 
with their individual values. The successful working out 
of the combination principle depended upon a scientific 
analysis and utilization of the curvilinear motion of long- 
hand, beginning with the ellipse or oval as a basis. 

The assignment of the characters according to individual 
values in the older systems naturally and inevitably resulted 
in the straight lines being given the preference, as stated in 
the letters from M. Jean P. A. Martin, which I have quoted. 
Straight lines when joined, resulted in a jerky, angular style 
of writing. Mr. Hugh B. Callendar, B.A., of Cambridge 
University, put this truth very well when he said: 

It is commonly stated that straight lines are more facile 
than curves. This is true of a series of straight lines de- 
cribed independently; but the curve often has the ad- 
vantage in the matter of joining to other characters, for its 
curvature may generally be varied, especially near the ends, 
so as to make the joining easier. 

Mr. D. P. Lindsley, author of "Lindsley's Takigraphy," 
in writing about " The Nature of Angles," said: 

When the hand is in rapid motion, any change of direction 
must hinder the speed of the writing. If the first glide into 
the second without any angle, the highest speed can be 

Writing on this subject, another well-known author and 
teacher, Mr. R. L. Eames, said: 

It has been said that Nature abhors a vacuum; I believe 
I may add with truth that Xature abhors a straight line. 
Nowhere in the whole domain of the universe can there 
be found a single instance of natural motion in a straight 
line. No system based on this principle (of straight lines) 
can be easily written, or naturally rapid, but must depend 
for stenographic capability on extreme brevity. 


An Unusual Review. — About a year after the publica- 
tion of "Light-Line Phonography" a review of it ap- 
peared in a newspaper in South Africa — the Cape Argus, 
Cape Town. 

I do not know who wrote the article, but in the thirty 
years that have passed since then I have not seen a more 
satisfactory or penetrating review of the system. The 
following sentences from it have a direct bearing on the 
subject of this article — curve motion: 

The inventor hits Pitman in a vulnerable part when 
he claims "frequency of curves, and infrequency of angles." 
Awkward angles — awkward to make and liable to run into 
incorrect forms — are unquestionably a weak point in Pitman, 
because when one set of wrist and forearm muscles are being 
used these angles demand a sudden jump to another set, 
which tends as it were, to throw the machinery out of gear. In 
the system before us the inventor seems to be on the right 
lines. The great thing in rapid writing is not that the 
strokes should be as brief and few as possible, but that they 
should flow with perfect ease and without the slightest 
hesitation from the pen. Therefore it follows that if there 
is to be improvement in the shape of characters, it will come 
in the direction of keeping the lines as much as possible in 
one direction, choosing lines easily made, and discarding 
those which tend to check the fingers and call into play a set 
of muscles different from those ordinarily employed. Mr. 
Gregg's system looked at from this point of view is one 
which certainly deserves attention from those interested in 
the subject — in fact great success is claimed for it already. 

Everyone knows that a stiff, angular style of longhand 
writing always connotes a slow writing, and that an easy, 
rapid, effortless style of writing abounds in curves, because 
curves are written with a free, rolling continuous motion. 
The muscles are relaxed in making elliptical curves; straight 
lines necessitate greater rigidity of hand. If this be true 
of longhand, it must be equally true of shorthand. 

Some very significant admissions about the value of 


curve motion occur in " Phonography in the Office," a book 
published by Isaac Pitman & Sons. After deploring the 
tendency of students to write a heavy style of shorthand, 
the author of the book, Mr. Alfred Kingston, says: 

The increased friction from the resistance of the paper 
makes it a serious obstacle to the acquisition of speed, to say 
nothing of the difficulty of distinguishing thin and thick 

Mr. Kingston then proceeds to give an exercise to be 
practiced for the purpose of counteracting this heavy style, 
but he takes care to say : 

The exercise is so framed as to consist almost exclu- 
sively of light curves. The selection of words and phrases 
which favor a continuous flowing style of writing will also 
enable the writer to take it down easily. The rate oj speed 
acquired in the writing of such a passage will be much greater 
than upon an ordinary passage, and it must not be used as 
a test of speed, or the result will be very misleading. 

It is surprising that Isaac Pitman & Sons permitted that 
statement to appear in one of their books. But at the time 
it was published the Pitman firm did not have competition 
with a system based on " light curves," which yield " greater 
speed " than angular zig-zag writing — a system free from 
the " increased friction " caused by heavy strokes. 

So far, in speaking of curve motion in longhand, I have 
discussed it mainly from the practical standpoint. The 
following quotation about ".the beauty of curves," from Dr. 
Francis Wayland was sent to me by one of our writers who 
thought it applicable to the writing of the system: 

Motion in curves is more beautiful than that in straight 
lines, both because of the greater beauty of the curved line, 
and because curvilinear motion indicates less effort. For 
these reasons, the motion of a fish in the water has always 
seemed to me remarkably beautiful. The waving of a field 
of grain, presenting an endless sucession of curved lines, 


advancing and receding with gentle motion, uniform in the 
midst of endless variety, has always seemed to me one of 
the most beautiful objects in Nature. On the contrary, 
jolting and angular motion always displeases us. How dif- 
ferent is the effect produced by the motion of one man on 
crutches, and of another on skates. 

Yet there are some people who still adhere to a belief in 
" jolting, angular motion," as the true basis of shorthand 

In the preceding chapter I stated that our system was 
based on the ellipse or oval, and that this was the vital 
distinction between it and geometric systems, which are 
founded on the circle and its segments. Bearing this in 
mind, you will realize that the ellipse embodies the natural 
curve motion of the hand in writing. This is the feature 
which distinguishes our system not only from the geometric 
systems, but from all other systems that claim to be 
founded on longhand or on the slope of longhand.* 

My next subject will be an important and original de- 
velopment of curve motion, which came about in a very 
interesting way. , 

* As this book is going to press my attention has been called to 
the results of an investigation made by The National Institute of 
Industrial Psychology (London), an institution established to pro- 
mote efficiency in industry. The Institution reports the findings 
of its skilled and trained psychologists after an investigation of 
the mental and physical qualities of operatives in factories and 
workshops, as follows: 

While the shortest distance between two points is a 
straight line; the investigators have found that curved 
movements of the hands, though longer than straight 
movements, may be quicker in the end. . . . Workers were 
trained by the investigators to follow curved paths and 
natural rhythms instead of straight lines, and an increase 
of thirty per cent output was obtained, far less effort 


Combination is the essence of invention. 

— Thomas Edison 

Obtuse angles are especially objectionable, and should 
be avoided so far as possible. 

— David P. Lindsley 

It would be madness and inconsistency to suppose that 
things which have never yet been performed can be per- 
formed without employing some hitherto untried means. 

— Lord Bacon, Novum Organum 

In beginning the previous chapter I said that the impor- 
tance of curvilinear motion in the system was not fully 
appreciated by many writers and teachers. But the appli- 
cation of curve motion in the formation of the Blended 
Consonants is more than appreciated — it is the feature 
which, above all others, is warmly commended by writers 
of our system and even by writers of other systems. I 
suppose this is because other curve combinations are 
obtained by the mere joining of the characters — as in pr, 
br, pi, bl, kr, kl, gr, gl, fr, fl, etc. — and therefore require no 
conscious thought, whereas the blends are obtained by the 
entirely original plan of allowing lines forming the obtuse 
angle to blend in the form of a curve. Whatever the 
reason may be, there is no question about the enthusiasm 
which the blending principle evokes. 

A System Discussion. — The origin of the blending 
principle is a rather interesting illustration of how a valuable 



principle may be developed from a mere passing suggestion. 
In discussing an earlier effort at shorthand construction 
with Mr. William Pettigrew (a well-known Glasgow man 
who had been prominent in the advancement of Pitman's 
Phonography in its early days) he strongly criticized the 
presence of many obtuse angles in the specimens I showed 
him. Then he vehemently declared that he had always 
maintained that the greatest weakness in the Pitman system 
was the presence of many obtuse angles. Taking a piece 
of paper he illustrated this by joining in succession the 
Pitman signs for p-k, k-p, t-ch, ch-t, p-t, t-p, k-r, r-k; next, 
he ran through a similar series with the thickened letters, 
beginning with b-g; then, the same series of characters with 
thick and thin strokes alternating ; and finally he wrote the 
curve and straight line combinations like l-p, j-r (upward 
r), r-sh (downward sh) , t-sh (upward sh), m-ch, etc. 

After each example he would say with great emphasis, 
" In rapid writing those lines will run together in the form 
of a large curve. You can't prevent it unless you write 
very carefully" — and so on for at least an hour. 

It was evidently a hobby with him ; and he had discussed 
it so many times with other phonographers that he had the 
illustrations at his fingers' ends. I omitted to say that 
Mr. Pettigrew had left the phonographic ranks because, 
like Mr. T. A. Reed, Mr. William Relton, and others, he 
objected to the introduction of the large initial hooks and 
some of the other changes made in the system. 

I listened to his exposition with considerable deference 
for I was very young at that time, and Mr. Pettigrew was 
a man of standing in the community — a member of the 
City Council, I believe. But when he had finished his 
denunciation of the obtuse angles in Pitman I ventured 
to point out that the outlines in the specimens submitted 
to him were on the longhand slope and, therefore, there 


could be only two obtuse angles — those between the 
horizontal line and the upward straight line, and vice 
versa — while in Pitman's Shorthand there were no less 
than eight obtuse angles between straight lines alone. The 
occurrence of these eight, too, was doubled by shading 
(b-g, etc.) and tripled by alternating light and heavy 
characters (6-/c, k-b, etc.). 

" Well," he said, " that is an improvement, but why have 
them at all ? Why not have alternative characters for these 
upward and horizontal letters so as to exclude the obtuse 
angles? Besides, these letters are common letters [at that 
time I had adopted the Duployan arrangement of the 
horizontal line for t 3 d, and the upward line for r, l,] } and 
tr, dr, will run together. To prevent that you will have to 
slow up in the writing, — you can't observe those angles 
in rapid writing. Besides, you may say the t and d slant 
upward slightly. That makes the angle less acute and the 
lines more liable to run together. To prevent this you 
ought to provide alternative signs for them." 

(Incidentally, I may say that a little while afterwards 
an attempt was made to overcome this tendency by a 
special "positional" expedient which, however, could be ap- 
plied only at the beginning of words.) 

Mr. Pettigrew was somewhat mollified by my contention 
that the number of obtuse angles was greatly reduced by 
the adoption of the longhand slope, and soon afterward he 
was won over to at least an academic support of the system. 
To be fair about it, I believe that his controversies with 
orthodox phonographers inclined him to support almost any 
system that promised to vindicate one of his theories ! 

The last time I was in Glasgow I called at Mr. Petti- 
grew's shop, but was grieved to hear that he had passed to 
the Great Beyond. I had looked forward with pleasant 
anticipation to telling him the momentous consequences 


that came from that discussion so many years ago. Doubt- 
less I should have discovered the blending principle in 
working out the curvilinear motion principle to its logical 
conclusion ; but I am inclined to believe that unconsciously 
Mr. Pettigrew started the train of thought which resulted in 
the discovery of a new principle in shorthand by which 
the obtuse angle has been almost entirely eliminated. 

The Execrated Obtuse Angles. — I am sure that Mr. 
•Pettigrew would have read with delight and hearty approval 
the following passages which I found some time ago in the 
preface to Munson's " Shorthand Dictionary " written by 
the author of one of the most popular textbooks on Pit- 
manic shorthand in the United States: 

We often see theorizing authors of shorthand works 
demonstrating by rule and dividers and by the counting 
of pen-strokes, the superiority of their systems in point of 
speed; while they fail to take cognizance on the other hand 
of the many hindrances to speed that inhere in their 

Mr. Munson then proceeds to discuss these hindrances. 
One of them he names as: 

Too frequent obtuse angles between stems — a very great 
impediment to speed, as may be readily demonstrated by 
tracing with exactness, but as quickly as possible, a line like 
the first of the following diagrams, and then in like man- 
ner, one like the second. 

(Mr. Munson then gives two lines of outlines, one with 
sharp, and the other with obtuse angles.) He adds: 

It will be seen that the outline with obtuse or blunt angles 
requires a much slower movement than the one with sharp 

Benn Pitman and Jerome B. Howard, in their " Reporter's 
Companion/' in discussing the " graphic impediments to 
phrasing," state that the presence of an obtuse angle may 


be a "sufficient reason for breaking a phrase, no matter 
how suitable for combination its elements might be from 
a grammatical standpoint." They then go on to explain 

Obtuse angles require a slowing and steadying of the 
hand in their execution, and are, therefore, stenographically 
objectionable in themselves. In the building of outlines of 
words the obtuse angle must at times be submitted to; 
but in phrase-writing it is generally avoidable and to be 
avoided. It should be observed also that the difficulty of 
an obtuse-angle joining of a half-length stroke is greater 
than is that of full length stroke, while the joining of the 
ticks, a-an-and, the, and of the vowel logograms at an ob- 
tuse angle is still more objectionable. 

Another author, Mr. D. P. Lindsley, declared: 

When an angle must be formed, the more acute it is the 
more easily can it be made. Obtuse angles are especially 
objectionable, and should be avoided as much as possible. 

Mr. W. S. Rogers, author of " Lessons in Graham Short- 
hand," says: 

We really have but two easy joinings, and those are 
strokes joined by circles or by sharp angles. Strokes 
joined by obtuse angles are more likely to detract from 
speed than add to it. 

In the Introduction of " A Critical and Historical Account 
of the Art of Shorthand," the authors (Hugh W. Innes and 
George Carl Mares) say: 

The obtuse joining is altogether condemnable, seeing 
that in writing performed with even a moderate degree of 
haste, it is liable to be rounded off and the two strokes ap- 
pear as a single curve. 1 A system in which obtuse angles oc- 
cur frequently would prove untrustworthy. 

1 The similarity in the wording of this to our presentation of the 
blending principle will be noted. It was published nine years after 
Light-Line Phonography, hence the unconscious assimilation. 


The famous reporter, and foremost exponent of Isaac 
Pitman Shorthand in England, Thomas Allen Reed, in 
" Leaves from my Note-Book/ 7 in explaining the nature 
of various phrases, said, "The easiest joinings are those 
of straight lines or curves that run into one another. Right 
angles and obtuse angles are less easy. Unless the junction 
is easy and flowing, no time is saved; indeed it will often 
take less time to write such words separately than without 
lifting the pen." 

An Insoluble Problem. — After I left Mr. Pettigrew I 
could not get his argument about the obtuse angles out of 
my mind. A little later, when the combination and curvili- 
near principles became fixed tenets in my shorthand creed, 
Mr. Pettigrew's denunciation of the obtuse angles seemed 
to intrude itself in every experiment. When I was happy 
over some arrangement of the characters for an alphabet 
I would find an obtuse angle ; and immediately there would 
flash into my mind a picture of Alderman Pettigrew leaning 
over the counter of his shop in Sauchiehall Street, pointing 
the finger of scorn at the offending angle! There were no 
obtuse angles in longhand — I was forced to acknowledge 
that — and if the "system of the future," of which I 
dreamed, and for which I worked, was to be the " distilled 
essence of our common writing," obtuse angles must be 
eliminated. There seemed no way to eliminate them except 
by providing alternative signs for the letters, as suggested 
by Mr. Pettigrew, and where were sufficient signs for al- 
ternatives to be obtained in a script-hand system? Seem- 
ingly it was an insoluble problem, and I was utterly dis- 
couraged over it. 

The Solution Discovered. — Then, one day came this 
thought: if lines which join with an obtuse angle take on 
the appearance of large curves when the angle is obscured 
in rapid writing, why is it not possible to contrive combina- 


tions with that end in view? Why not arrange the horizon- 
tal and upward lines so that when they blend in the form of 
curves these curves shall represent very frequent combina- 
tions of letters ? 

I well remember the enthusiasm and the feverish energy 
with which I worked day and night on that idea — how I 
compiled table after table of all the common combinations 
of letters, and tested each of them. I realized that it w r as 
not enough to have conceived the theory: I must apply it 
to the most useful purpose. The result you know: the ten, 
den, tern, ent, emt, blends; and def, dev, jent, jend (the 
latter afterwards extended to pent, pend) . 

The " Blends." — In presenting the "Blended Conso- 
nants n in the first editions they were arranged in two 
groups : 

(1) The combinations pr, pi, br, bl, kr, kl, gr, gl, ted, 
ded, ses, all of which combine without an angle. (Fr, fl, 
vr, vl, w r ere added later) . 

(2) The combinations in which the obtuse angle was 
eliminated through the " natural tendency of the hand to 
allow such lines to form a curve" — ten, den, tern, dem, 
ent, end, emd, def, dev, jent (the last named being after- 
wards extended to pent, pend) . 

While the inclusion of the combinations given in the first 
section helped to emphasize the fact that combination was 
a basic principle in the system, it was not necessary to make 
a special feature of them, as the characters joined without 
the application of any special blending principle. For this 
reason I thought it advisable in later editions to introduce 
them without special classification in order that students 
might have a more extensive writing vocabulary early in 
the course. 

The little "wave-like" ses has always been a great favor- 
ite with writers; there was nothing just like it in any system 


prior to " Light-Line," but it has been adopted in several 
systems since then. 

The joining of t to d to express ted, ded, is an old ex- 
pedient used in many other systems. 

It may interest many writers of the system to learn that 
the sign for men, mem, was not in the system at first. At 
that time ng was expressed by the sign now used for men, 
mem, and nk was expressed by the lowered n. Later the 
lowered n was assigned to ng, which was lengthened for nk 
(ngk). This change permitted the use of the lengthened m 
for men, mem, and thus one of the most useful of all the 
combinations was added to the system. Isaac Pitman, in 
an address before the Shorthand Society, London, 1894, 

M and n are not only side by side in the alphabet, but 
like loving sisters they walk through the language hand in 
hand. These affinities must be regarded in the selection 
of signs to represent the sounds, so that the letters may run 
easily into each other as the sounds do. 

It will be seen that the dictum of the author of Phonog- 
raphy applies more strongly to the representation of n and 
m in Gregg Shorthand than it does to his own system. 

It is certainly remarkable how frequently n follows m, 
and how seldom it precedes it. The saving effected by 
expressing such common combinations as men, mem, by one 
impulse of the pen is very obvious. 

As a Matter of Record. — An attempt has been made to 
show that the blending principle was not original w r ith 
11 Light-Line Phonography." This is highly complimentary, 
because it shows that the great value of the elimination of 
the obtuse angle, and the resulting combinations (one is 
tempted to say, " thus killing two birds with one stone ") 
is fully recognized even by those opposed to the system. 
In attempting to substantiate his assertion our critic points 


to arbitrary signs for combinations of letters, such as have 
appeared in systems since the beginning of shorthand, and 
which are in no sense blended signs. 

In view of these misstatements I may be pardoned if I 
make a digression at this point to state that so far as I 
am aware: 

(a) The blending of the obtuse angles in the form of 
curves is not to be found in any previous system. 

(b) The curves representing the blends in our system 
are not used in the alphabet for any purpose. Therefore, 
it is obvious that the blending principle was a fundamental 
part of the construction of the alphabet, and not an after- 

(c) The name, " Blended Consonants/' was not used in 
other systems until after the appearance of " Light-Line 
Phonography. " 

(d) In borrowing the name, " Blended Consonants," 
from " Light-Line " as a substitute for the names previously 
used — " syllabic contractions, " " consonantal combina- 
tions," "combined consonants, " etc. — to designate con- 
tractions which are not obtained by allowing lines forming 
an obtuse angle to blend as curves, other systems have per- 
petrated a ridiculous solecism. Webster's New Interna- 
tional Dictionary defines " blend " in this way: 

To fuse, merge ... to pass or shade imperceptibly into 
one another ... so that it cannot be known where one 
ends and the other begins. 

The Century Dictionary defines it: 

To cause to pass imperceptibly into one another; to unite 
so that there shall be no perceptible line of division. 

How admirably this describes the elimination of the 
obtuse angle by the arrangement of the letters, so that they 
pass "into one another" in the form of a large curve "with- 


out any perceptible line of division " will be apparent to 
any reader who is familiar with the system. And it will be 
equally apparent that the name " Blended Consonants," 
when applied to arbitrary combinations of consonantal 
characters which join with a sharp angle, and cannot there- 
fore " pass imperceptibly into one another," is a misnomer. 
Perhaps I have written at too great length on this 
subject. In coming to the explanation of this subject I 
found a reminiscent pleasure, as it were, in recalling my 
boyish enthusiasm and exultation over the discovery of 
the blending principle. In those days it was an epic 
event! And in all the years that have passed since then 
I have not had any reason to change my views about 
its importance. Indeed, I would be wanting in frank- 
ness if I did not acknowledge that the Blended Consonants 
have given me greater satisfaction than any other basic 
principle of the system, except Curvilinear Motion, of which 
it is a natural and logical development. 


It has finally become the experience of the most expert 
shorthand writers that outlines which depend upon shading 
for their legibility are in general unsafe outlines to adopt. 

— George H. Thornton 

It does not seem necessary to argue that it takes longer 
to write a heavy stroke than a light one. The fact is so 
obvious that I was inclined to depart from the plan of 
giving quotations from authors and prominent advocates 
of other systems in support of any statement I made. My 
files contain a folder for each shorthand principle, and the 
one devoted to shading is simply overflowing with articles 
and quotations about the evils of shading. Many of the 
articles give numerous instances of humorous — and some- 
times serious — errors in transcription which have been 
caused by the use of shading. 

An Obstacle to Speed. — To be consistent with the plan 
of the series of articles, I am going to incorporate a few 
quotations. The first one is from a book published by 
Isaac Pitman & Sons, called " Phonography in the Office. " 
The author, Mr. Kingston, deplores a " too heavy style of 
shorthand," as " the increased friction from the resistance 
of the paper makes it a serious obstacle to the acquisition 
of speed, to say nothing of the difficulty of distinguishing 
thin and thick strokes." He then gives an exercise " so 
framed as to consist almost exclusively of light curves/' 
stating that the " selection of words and phrases which 
favor a continuous, flowing style of writing will enable the 



writer to take it down easily." After giving the selection 
consisting " almost exclusively of light curves," he utters 
this significant warning: 

The rate of speed required in the writing of such a passage 
will be much greater than upon an ordinary passage, and it 
must not be used as a test of speed, or the result will be 
very misleading. 

Some years ago a well-known Chicago law reporter, Mr. 
W. E. McDermut, in writing on the subject of shading, 

Forty years ago Mr. Graham tabulated the results of ex- 
periments made to test the relative brevity of certain 
characters and combinations. His tables showed that light 
characters are at least ten per cent more rapid than heavy 
ones. I have demonstrated with shorthand classes that this 
is the minimum difference, and some writers claim that 
the advantage of light strokes amounts to thirty per cent. 

In his " Handbook of Standard Phonography " (Edition 
of 1858, Part V., p. 12), Mr. Graham said: 

The difference between t and d shows that it is a disad- 
vantage to write with a heavy hand — that the heavy lines 
should be barely distinguished from the light lines, which 
should be made very light. 

Mr. Isaac S. Dement, the winner of the first reporters' 
speed contest in the United States, said after the contest 
(Phonographic World, September, 1887) : 

I wish also to say here that I think this light-line system 
is the true one, and will be thoroughly demonstrated to be 
the true one in time. 

In the preface to the " Modern Stenographer," Mr. George 
H. Thornton, former president of the New York State 
Stenographers 7 Association and official reporter of the 
Supreme Court, New York, said: 


It has finally become the experience of the most expert 
stenographers that outlines which depend upon shading 
for their legibility are in general unsafe outlines to adopt. 
... If, as experience has taught, this shading of the out- 
lines can be done away with, it is useless to tell a practical 
stenographer of the immense advantage in point of speed 
to be gained thereby. . . . The essence of this principle is 
recognized by Mr. Munson in his "Complete Phonographer," 
for he there says that increase of speed is attended with 
decrease of force, and therefore that all stems would be 
written as light as consistent with legibility. If this is true, 
the converse of the proposition most naturally follows, 
that the increase of force necessarily required in the shading 
of the outlines must be attended with decrease of speed. It 
is so apparent that a plain system can be written with a 
greatly increased rapidity that it is hardly worth while to 
demonstrate it. 

Correct Shading Essential. — The Phonographic Maga- 
zine, Cincinnati, Ohio (the organ of the Benn Pitman 
system) for May, 1889, has this frank admission: 

Undoubtedly, there are many outlines which are recog- 
nizable from their general form without reference to shading 
— with the shading omitted, or even with the shaded and 
light strokes reversed. But such outlines are relatively few, 
and are only the forms of long words or of highly charac- 
teristic phrases. Thousands of words and phrases of only 
one and two strokes depend upon correct shading not only 
for ready legibility, but for a degree of legibility which en- 
ables the writer to read them at all. 

In answer to a question from a correspondent who ex- 
perienced difficulty in shading horizontal strokes — and he 
is not alone in that! — the Phonographic Magazine (Octo- 
ber, 1904) gave the following elaborate suggestions: 

The ordinary normal position of the hand in phono- 
graphic writing is such that both nibs of the pen may rest 
upon the paper with equal pressure. In shading horizontal 
strokes this position may be temporarily modified by very 
slightly rotating the penholder with the downward pressure 


of the thumb, so that the left nib shall press a little more 
heavily than the right nib. As soon as the stroke is executed, 
however, a contrary rotation of the penholder should bring 
the pen back to the normal position. Your only danger in 
carrying this hint into practice is that you may make the 
rotation of the holder and the consequent pressure on the 
left nib greater than necessary. The modification of the 
normal position should be very slight, indeed. 

These quotations are from authors or expert writers of 
Pitmanic systems. In these systems shading is used chiefly 
as a means of distinction between the phonetic pairs, 
although as Mr. Hugh Innes has pointed out, " Pitman 
shades not only to distinguish similar consonants, but to 
add p to m, r to I, ch to r, and to give n a nasal intonation." 

Shading Used for Many Purposes. — Shading has been 
used for many purposes in various systems. It has been 
used to express double letters; to add consonants, such as 
h, r, s, t; to add vowels; and to distinguish shades of vowel 
sounds. In the German systems it is generally used " to 
distinguish symbolically-indicated vowels, and also certain 
written vowels." 

As far back as 1856 Soper thickened letters to add r, 
calling it " the simultaneous r." He was followed in this 
by J. G. Cross (1878), who called it " the coalescent r? by 
Sloan (1882) , Simson (1884) , Barter and others. In Guest's 
" Compendious Shorthand " thickening is used to add t or d, 
and lengthening is used to add s. It is usually claimed on 
behalf of systems in which shading is used for the purpose 
of adding a letter that this is an advantage, because they 
have less shading than in the Pitman system. 

The most prominent of the systems applying shading for 
the addition of a letter is the Sloan-Duployan. There was 
no shading in the original French system, but as the outlines 
were very cumbrous, Mr. Sloan, following the lead of Soper 
and Cross, introduced shading to express the letter r. 


Shading Denounced by Those Who Use It. — A 

pamphlet on behalf of Sloan-Duployan Shorthand, entitled 
"Revolution in Shorthand" (written and copyrighted by 
Mr. Thomas S. Malone, then the Glasgow agent for Sloan- 
Duployan and who later became identified with " Script 
Phonography") claims that one of "the leading principles 
of structure from which the system derives its chief ex- 
cellence " is " the absence of shading, or the use of light 
and heavy signs, which is only introduced by Mr. Sloan 
into his adaptation to meet a peculiarity of the English 
language with regard to one particular letter of constant 

Then follows this succinct statement of the evils of 

The extensive use of the process of shading outlines, al- 
though very general in the old systems, is a most objection- 
able principle in shorthand, being an obstruction of speed 
if used, and a source of illegibility if neglected. 

In the same paragraph the " monstrous ' position ' prin- 
ciple in other systems, which gives to an outline a variety 
of meanings according to its position on the paper " is de- 
nounced. But, in the words of Kipling, that is another 

Even more effective is the argument against shading con- 
tained in the " Reply to T. A. Reed's Criticism of Sloan- 
Duployan Shorthand," written by Mr. Malone, and pub- 
lished by the Sloan-Duployan Shorthand Association. The 
" Reply " says: 

After describing the alphabet he [Mr. Reed] remarks: 
"Xor do I find fault with the distinction between the two 
letters in each pair by length, although a good deal is 
lost in brevity by the absence of any distinction in thick- 
ness." However high may be Mr. Reed's reputation as a 
shorthand writer, we unhesitatingly assert that here he ut- 
ters a palpable fallacy obvious to the merest tyro in the art. 


That the absence of any distinction in thickness of stroke 
acclerates instead of retarding speed is a plain matter of 
fact, which it will require something more than the weight 
of Mr. Reed's authority to controvert. Let the reader try 
the simple experiment of tracing the following two pairs 
of lines — the one distinguished by length and the other 
by thickness — and then judge of the soundness of the theory 
Mr. Reed gravely propounds. The former pair, it will be 
seen, in striking contrast to the eye are equally expeditious 
to the hand, while the latter necessitates the shading — a 
process most obstructive to rapid writing. Great indeed 
must be the blinding power of self-interest if so able a man 
as Mr. Reed can persuade himself that the absence of shading 
in a shorthand system is a defect. 

And on the same page Mr. Malone, in speaking of some 
of the Duployan outlines, said: 

As they are free from shading and scarcely involve the 
principle of position, the facility with which they can 
be applied is self-evident. 

In his first lecture on " Script Phonography," Mr. Malone 

Our next source of speed is the light, hair-stroke character 
of the writing, there being no shading, no thickening of the 
strokes, except with regard to one letter, and that the most 
common letter in the language, the letter s and, of course, 
its cognate z (or soft s). 

There is a characteristic confusion of ideas in this state- 
ment. Mr. Malone begins by claiming as a great merit of 
" Script Phonography " that there is little shading, and then 
goes on to say that shading is used for the " most common 
letter in the language! " 

After the appearance of " Light-Line Phonography " — a 
system in which there was absolutely no shading — Mr. 
Malone made a " strategical retreat," in these words: 

To the thoughtless and indolent, the total absence of 
any distinction between thick and thin lines in a system 


of shorthand may seem an attraction by the license afforded 
for dispensing with all discipline of hand movement and 
concentration of thought. To write in a slipshod, mechan- 
ical manner, without having to think appeals to some as 
a thing to be desired. 

My only comment on this is to repeat Mr. Malone's 
reference to Mr. Reed — " Great indeed must be the blind- 
ing power of self-interest." 

Shading Always Detrimental. — Shading is objection- 
able in whatever form it is used. It is more objectionable 
as an expedient for adding a letter (as in Sloan-Duployan, 
Script, Cross, etc.) than when it is used to distinguish be- 
tween the phonetic pairs, as in the Pitman system. When 
it is used to distinguish the phonetic pairs, if the shading 
is not clear there is sometimes a slight clue to the word on 
account of the similarity of sounds. It is true, as stated 
in the quotation from the Phonographic Magazine already 
given, that " such outlines are relatively few, and are only 
the forms of long words or of highly characteristic phrases." 
But it does happen occasionally. In the case of systems 
where shading is used to add an important letter, if the 
shading is not clearly indicated, there is absolutely no in- 
dication that a letter is omitted. 

The difficulty in some of these systems is intensified by 
the fact that the shading is applied to upstrokes, and even 
to small circles and hooks! Where an attempt is made 
to apply shading to minute characters, such as circles and 
hooks, the onward impulse of the pen is checked abruptly 
while the pressure is being applied to the minute character. 
After an abrupt pause of that kind it is difficult to regain 
momentum, just as it would be impossible for a runner to 
stop every hundred yards to pick up something and keep 
going at his maximum speed. The difficulty of applying 
shading to a small circle or hook, even when writing at a 
moderate speed, will be apparent to everyone; but when 


the writing is rapid it is almost impossible to apply shading 
to minute characters. 

There are many systems in which both position-writing 
and shading are used to add consonants. When either of 
these hazardous expedients is not applied with precision, 
the reading of the notes depends upon the guessing ability 
of the reader; but when both expedients are applied to the 
same character, and neither applied with precision, the 
reader of the notes needs to be a super-guesser, so to speak. 


My contention is that it is not permissible to elabo- 
rate distinctions of thickness in one and the same stroke, 
by making it at one time thinner and at another thicker. 
Such a contrivance may be placed in its obvious light if we 
could imagine anyone proposing to abbreviate our ordinary 
writing by making the "k", when written thick and heavily, 
to stand for "g", and when thinned to be used for "k" or 
"q"; so that "Kate" would be written with a thin "k" 
and a thin "t", and "giddy" with a thick "k" and a thick 
"t" ! ! — Thomas Anderson 

As you will have noticed, I have taken pains to show 
that shorthand principles have gone through a process of 
evolution. In tracing this process of evolution in short- 
hand we often find that an expedient, which is introduced 
in an incidental way in one system, has been expanded 
into an important basic principle in the structure of a later 
system, and we often find that when the principle has been 
applied to the limit of its possibilities there has sometimes 
come a reaction against it. Thickening of characters as a 
means of distinction between similar consonant sounds, is a 
good illustration of this. 

As comparatively few people have given much thought to 
the origin of the expedient of thickening in shorthand, and 
its effects upon the history of shorthand when extended 
from an expedient to a principle, I am going to explain 
it somewhat fully. 

The Origin of "Shading." — The first use of shading 
to distinguish between pairs of consonants has been generally 
attributed to the Harding edition of the Taylor system. 
Harding's first edition was published in 1823, and, as will 



be seen from a quotation given later in this chapter, Isaac 
Pitman studied shorthand from the Harding edition of the 
Taylor system and wrote it for seven years. Probably this 
is why the introduction of shading for the purpose of dis- 
tinguishing between pairs has been very generally attrib- 
uted to Harding. 

While writing this series of articles I had occasion to 
refer to Molineux's " Introduction to Byrom's Shorthand," 
and in it I found the following sentences: 

The next consonant, it may be observed, is / or v, the latter 
being in general represented by the same mark as /; though, 
occasionally, it may be useful to distinguish from the former 
by making a stroke a little thicker. 

A similar distinction is also occasionally made, when- 
ever it may appear either useful or necessary, between the 
letters s and z, which, having the same power, are generally 
signified by one and the same horizontal straight line. When 
they are distinguished from each other, the letter z is made 
a little thicker than the s. 

The book from which I have quoted this is the Fifth 
Edition, published in 1821; but probably the same state- 
ment appeared in the previous editions, the first of which 
was published in 1796. As Harding's first edition of Samuel 
Taylor's system was published in 1823, it seems clear that 
he derived this means of distinction between pairs from 
Molineux or Byrom — especially as the distinction is made 
for the same pairs — / and v; s and z — as in Molineux's 
edition of Byrom's system. 

In his " History of Shorthand " Isaac Pitman quotes 
approvingly from the review of Byrom's system by Lewis, 
in which he says: 

In order to assist the learner he [Byrom] classifies the 
letters in the following manner, according to their affinity 
of sound or their labial connection: 

Vi b; f, v; s, z; sh, zh; t, d; th, dh; k, g; ch, j; m, n; I, r; h. 


Isaac Pitman, having been familiar with this method of 
using shading as a means of distinguishing between some of 
the cognates through his practice of Harding's edition of the 
Taylor system, expanded it to a general principle for the 
purpose of distinguishing all phonetic pairs of letters. 

A Retrograde Step. — I regard it as extremely unfortu- 
nate for the progress of shorthand that Isaac Pitman studied 
the Harding edition of the Taylor system. If he had not 
done so, the history of shorthand for more than half 
a century might have been entirely different, and the art 
might now be part of the education of every child. Think 
what that would have meant to the world! The saving in 
time and effort effected for millions of people, to say nothing 
of the educational advantages that would have been derived 
by all who studied the subject, simply staggers the imagina- 

By the extension of thickening to nearly all the phonetic 
pairs as a means of distinction, the progress of the art was 
deflected from its natural course for more than half a, 
century. I say this because I am thoroughly convinced that 
the real source of most of the " complexities, perplexities, 
and eccentricities " of Pitman's Shorthand, which have pre- 
vented it from becoming almost universal, is to be found 
in the introduction of shading to distinguish the phonetic 
pairs. I hope to make this so clear as to carry conviction 
to the mind of the impartial reader. 

To begin, then, at the very beginning: " The Life of Sir 
Isaac Pitman," published by Isaac Pitman & Sons, says: 

Phonography, he long afterwards wrote, with all the 
intellectual and social benefits that follow in its train, has 
resulted from the seemingly trifling circumstance that the 
author, at the age of seventeen, learned Taylor's system 
of shorthand from Harding's edition and that he was incited 
to the study chiefly by the persual of the eloquent enumer- 
ation of some of the advantages arising from the practice 


of the art, from the pen of Mr. Gawtress, the publisher of 
an improved edition of Byrom's system. 

Mr. Andrew J. Graham, author of the "Graham Standard 
Phonography," in the Phonographic World for August, 
1889, pointed out that the use of shading, as a means of 
distinction between the phonetic pairs of letters, was sug- 
gested by Mr. Pitman's previous use of the Harding edition 
of the Taylor system. Mr. Graham said: 

Isaac Pitman, by his own acknowledgment, used Taylor's 
system for seven years prior to the publication of his 
"Stenographic Sound Hand." Taylor's system was published 
in 1786, and in 1823 there was published an improvement 
upon it by Harding and it is my impression that Isaac Pit- 
man acknowledges in some of his works that that was the 
system he used for seven years. Although Mr. Pitman has 
never made any acknowledgment of his indebtedness to 
Harding for the most important principles of "Phonogra- 
phy," we find in his 1837 edition that he copied the most 
important of these from Harding's book; and these were, 
the method of representing vowels by dots and dashes and of 
distinguishing pairs of letters by pairs of light and heavy 
signs, as /, v ; s, z. (Pitman's Phonotypic Journal, Vol. VI., 
1847, p. 340). Mr. Pitman publicly acknowledged that to one 
familiar with these representations of this idea it was but 
child's play, with the relations of the consonants of the lan- 
guage generally known, to apply this important principle in 
his alphabet; as, in the "First Edition" (1837), p, b, t, d, ch, 
h K Q, J, v, s, z. . . . 

[Mr. Graham then gave shorthand illustrations showing 
how closely Mr. Pitman followed Harding in the arrange- 
ment of the consonants in his 1837 edition.] 

In fine, Isaac Pitman in 1837 copied Harding's alphabet, 
with its important characteristics, more closely than he has 
his own 1837 alphabet, in several editions since. 

In addition, Mr. Pitman appropriated from Harding 
the plan of writing words in three different positions, to im- 
ply first-position, second-position, or third-position vowels. 


See Harding's book (1830) p. 24, last paragraph but one. 
Also Harding's plan of writing the vowels to preceding or 
following consonants and the plan of reckoning the position 
from the beginning or direction of the consonant. 

Mr. Graham then states that Isaac Pitman was indebted 
to Harding for: 

1. Similar or paired signs for similar or paired sounds. 
As to discovering these relations of the consonants they 
were completely known to phonologists from 1787 (in Rev. 
William Graham's Shorthand, in Byrom's system, and in 

2. The arrangement of vowels into two classes, one part 
represented by dots, and the other by dashes, in three differ- 
ent places, with a determination of the order in which those 
vowels were to be placed, to read before or after; and as to 
the direction of the strokes. 

Mr. Graham's article is interesting, although it is marred 
by personal malevolence towards the author of Phonog- 

Phonetic Pairing Very Old. — As emphasis is placed 
in the foregoing quotation on the pairing of sounds, we may 
point out that Mr. Graham could have quoted earlier in- 
stances of pairing than those he mentioned. The follow- 
ing quotation from "The Life and Labors of Sir Isaac Pit- 
man/' by Benn Pitman, is valuable in this connection: 

It is a curious incident in Stenographic history, that the 
exact order of Isaac Pitman's simple-vowel scheme, and 
to a great extent the pairing of the consonants, was antici- 
pated in one system of Shorthand, namely, that by Holds- 
worth and Aldridge, joint authors of "Natural Shorthand." 
published in 1766. ... It was the first brief system of 
writing in which the phonetic principle and a full alphabet 
were recognized. 

In extending Harding's expedient to all the pairs Mr. 
Pitman found it necessary to give the downward directions 


to nearly all the frequent pairs of letters, since shading 
could not be applied with ease or certainty to upstrokes. 
Therefore Mr. Pitman assigned downward characters to 
some of the most common pairs of letters — t, d, p, b, f, v, 
s, z> sh, zh, th, dh, r, I. This resulted in a constant down- 
ward tendency in the writing, and to counteract this pre- 
ponderating downward tendency Mr. Pitman provided some 
of the letters with alternative forms which were written 
upwards. In the introduction of these alternative forms 
to patch up a defect in the arrangement of the alpha- 
bet — a defect which was a direct outcome of the use of 
shading to distinguish similar consonants — is to be 
found the origin of most of the complications of Pitman's 

Evil Effects of "Shading." — To return to the' arrange- 
ment of the Pitman alphabet: The upward straight line was 
assigned to r (only one form of r) , one upward curve to I 
(only one form of I), the other upward curve to sh (only 
one form of sh) ; the horizontal straight facile line was 
assigned to comparatively infrequent k y g; and the horizon- 
tal curves to n, ng, m, mp. Just compare the importance 
of these letters, and you will see at once that " stenographic 
balance " (or lineal writing) is absolutely impossible when 
so many frequently-occurring letters are written downwards. 
Remember, too, that t, d, p, t b, s, z, th, are always written 
in a downward direction and that the three upward char- 
acters, r, I, sh y are as often written downward as upward, 
and you will get an idea of w T hat I meant about the evil 
effects that the introduction of shading had upon shorthand 

In his " Note-Taker " (published in 1873) D. P. Lindsley 
pointed out that in Pitmanic Shorthand it was possible to 
writes the combination strd in twenty ways. He said: 


It is not easy to employ the best form for a word when 
several possible forms occur to the mind. For example, sup- 
pose that a word containing the letters 5 t r d is to be written. 
The form may be varied in more than a dozen ways, retain- 
ing the letters in the same order. In the following words, the 
only consonants written by the Phonographers are s t r d; 
yet each word is written in a different way, as follows: 
Then followed the outlines for these words: Saturday, 
steward, stride, strayed, astrayed, astride, eastward, yester- 
day, sturdy, stirred, storied, star-eyed, asteroid. 

Were the forms given above all the forms from which the 
student must choose in writing words containing these let- 
ters, the difficulty would not be so great as it really is; for, 
besides these legitimate outlines there are eight others, 
which are not recommended for use, yet are quite as likely 
to be chosen by the young writer, who must choose between 
twenty possible outlines to find the correct one. 

Since the above was written the "Committee on Short- 
hand Standards " of the New York State Shorthand Re- 
porters' Association has declared that the " compound 
consonant devices of Pitmanic shorthand contribute not a 
little to its weakness through being pushed too far." Says 
the committee: 

" This factor more than any other is lost sight of by the 
writer of mature experience. To realize its importance 
you must by a conscious effort set aside the unconscious 
familiarity acquired by thorough training and long ex- 
perience and look with the open mind and inquiring eye of 
the shorthand novice about to be initiated into the mysteries 
of the shorthand art. 

11 Consider these eight signs, with their respective mean- 

sthr zthr rfr w*vr 

) ) !) V^ ^ ^ 

* The Benn Pitman form for W is used. 


No explanation however ingenious can evade the confusion 
of the student on learning that a stem which, through every 
other variation of half or double length, final hooks, loops, 
or circles, is consistently S or some systematic addition to S, 
here stands for the S-less compound thr — and similarly for 
the other three pairs of stems. 

" Consider the consonant sequence str 

1 j ^ ^ * 



Here are twelve different representations provided, of which 
every writer will use at least a majority at one time or 
another. By any standard of the relative frequency of the 
combination or of the component sounds this is an over- 
balanced and wasteful use of material, contributing more 
to mental hesitation than to facility. 

11 Consider, for a final illustration, the double length 
device used for ter y dor, and ther on all strokes, for ker, ger, 
and er, in addition on some strokes, with a sentiment rapidly 
crystallizing in favor of using it for ted on all strokes as 
well. In professional shorthand writing almost any device 
or sign may or must be expected to 'carry double/ but 
reasonable limitations must be observed if positive legibility, 
the final test of any system, style or writer, is to be 

Experienced writers of Pitman's Shorthand frankly admit 
that the numerous alternative forms for letters in that sys- 
tem are a fruitful source of hesitancy and uncertainty in 
writing. Few of them, I believe, have traced the necessity 


for these alternatives to the original source — the introduc- 
tion of shading to distinguish the phonetic pairs. This defect 
in the system has been so well recognized by the Pitman 
firm that there has been a strenuous effort to create a feeling 
of reverence for these alternatives as perfect marvels of sci- 
entific ingenuity. A favorite method of camouflage is to 
speak of the "wealth of material" represented by these 

Alternatives Responsible for "Breakdowns." — As 
illustrations of the amusing manner in which the publishers 
of Isaac Pitman Shorthand seek to defend the use of alter- 
native signs for the characters, I give two quotations. The 
first is from an article on "Alternatives in Pitman's Short- 
hand," which appeared in Pitman's Journal for July 26, 

One of the features that conspicuously distinguish Pit- 
man's Shorthand from inferior systems is the provision of 
alternative forms for the representation of individual con- 
sonants. . . . Failure to grasp or to recognize the full sig- 
nificance of the rules which govern the employment of 
various alternatives is responsible for many an examination 
breakdown. It cannot be too often repeated that it is wise 
on the part of every student, when he or she has gone 
through the adopted text-book or attended a complete course 
of instruction, to go through the system again from the be- 
ginning. The early rules will now be seen in the new light. 
Little things that had been overlooked or imperfectly mas- 
tered will reveal their real importance, which was perhaps 
less obvious on the first persual. The great value of the al- 
ternative forms would be brought out by a critical scrutiny 
such as is here recommended. And the necessity of availing 
oneself fully of those alternatives will be driven home with 
a force that was not felt originally. . . . 

Let the intelligent, critical student ask himself why it 
proves beneficial in practice to use sometimes a stroke and 
sometimes a circle to represent s; why it is useful to be able 
in some instances to write r or sh from the bottom upwards 


and in other instances to write those letters from the top 
downwards; why it is valuable to indicate an added t or d 
by halving, and why in certain cases it is preferable to em- 
ploy the full-stroke forms to represent those letters; or how 
it is that legibility and fluency are promoted by the use 
of hooks for r, I, f, and v, in addition to the alphabetic char- 
acters; or what is the precise gain secured by the various 
modes of representing the aspirate, and he will soon find that 
he is launched on a fruitful intellectual inquiry. He will 
be brought into close and intimate contact with some strik- 
ing facts of the language and of the raw material from which 
all shorthand writing is built up. 

" Facing Facts." — The same journal for September 17, 
1921, which I have just received, contains an article under 
the title, "Pitman's Shorthand and its Facile Word-Forms," 
which I give in full : 

The student of Pitman's Shorthand, when he has discovered 
how efficaciously the use of alternative characters to repre- 
sent a single consonant serves the purpose of vowel indi- 
cation, is prone to apply the method universally. To be 
able from the mere form of a consonant character to tell 
infallibly whether an unwritten vowel precedes or follows 
it, or whether a vowel is or is not to be read between two 
successive consonants, comes as a revelation of hitherto un- 
suspected possibility of handwriting. The beginner had 
encountered nothing like it in learning shorthand. And 
he is justifiably fascinated. He has found out for the first 
time how to make two blades of grass grow where one 
grew before. His enthusiasm is diverted into a new channel 
when his teacher begins to invite his serious attention to 
another powerful tendency in this system. Alternative signs, 
he begins to perceive, serve another purpose also. Short- 
hand is not merely a method of brief writing. It is a 
method of rapid writing. The twin requirements of legi- 
bility and speed have to be provided for; and since all pos- 
sible combinations of geometric forms are not equally 
capable of being made with perfect accuracy at speed, 
there are instances in which it becomes imperative to 
select the form that does fulfil that requirement. Ease 


of writing then becomes the paramount consideration. And 
so the student having learnt, for instance, that a downward 
r indicates a preceding vowel and that an upward r in- 
dicates that a vowel follows, is made aware that another in- 
dispensable need compels him sometimes to subordinate the 
principle of vowel-indication to that of facility of writing. 
The upward r in arch, artist, answer and officer, and the 
downward r in room, remain, and romance, show how Pit- 
man's Shorthand faces facts. 

Any intelligent reader will know why the Pitman pub- 
lishers feel it so necessary to assume an attitude of pro- 
found admiration for alternative characters, and to go into 
ecstacies over the manner in which their system " faces 
facts. " The truth is that it is because they are face to face 
with facts that such articles appear in almost every number 
of their publications. 

The consequence of the introduction of shading, to dis- 
tinguish the common phonetic pairs, is that instead of 
having a fluent, onward, lineal movement the tendency of the 
Pitman writing is invariably downward. It is almost im- 
possible to write any long word in Pitman's Shorthand from 
the alphabet without the writing descending two, three, and 
sometimes four strokes, below the line of writing. This 
explains why all the early lessons in Pitman's Shorthand 
consist almost exclusively of monosyllables. Very few 
long words are ever written from the alphabet in Pitmanic 

Alternative Forms a Hindrance. — Writing on this 
subject in the Gregg Shorthand Magazine for November, 
1914, Mr. E. P. Aust (of Bath) said: 

But whatever passage is chosen, the alphabetic character 
of Gregg will always stand out as one of its strongest fea- 

It must be a very common experience of Pitman teachers, 
after explaining to and drilling their students in one of the 


many modifications of the Pitman alphabet, each with its 
numerous rules and exceptions, to find them continuing to 
write alphabetically. The average student, when he has 
to write a new word, writes it alphabetically, and generally 
lets it stay at that. And if the case of the reporter (recently 
quoted by you) who wrote reference in full, is at all typical, 
this sort of thing is not confined to learners. In the case 
of the learner, at any rate, I think it is a perfectly natural 
and logical error. The Gregg student will, of course, act 
in precisely the same way, save that he will use the vowels 
as well; but generally, unlike the case of the Pitman learner, 
the resulting outline will be correct, or nearly so. I went into 
my Gregg class the other day, and found them trying — 
they were all beginners — to write their names in Gregg. 
There were some, of course, who had not gone far enough to 
do this, but quite a number of the students succeeded. They 
had simply used their alphabet. 

Within the past week I received a letter from a gentle- 
man in England who is known to shorthand teachers every- 
where as a foremost authority on Pitman's Shorthand, but 
whose name I cannot give without his permission. Among 
other things he said : 

After giving this time to Gregg Shorthand and understand- 
ing something of its structure and beauty — you do well to 
speak of Gregg artists — I find that the angular outlines of 
Pitman are positively repellent — they offend my artistic eye. 
Certainly you have a very beautiful system, compared with 
which Pitman is cold and dead. 

That paragraph would have gone in the first chapter had 
I received it in time. The next paragraph has a more direct 
bearing on the point discussed by Mr. Aust: 

The great asset of Gregg, apart from its fluent, script 
characteristic, is to my mind, that a very wide vocabulary 
is available early; there is more shorthand material in the 
first seven lessons of your Manual than in the whole of the 
Pitman Manual. 


Another Evil of Shading. — Among my correspondents 
many years ago was a talented and experienced journalist 
who had used Pitman's Shorthand for more than thirty 
years as a reporter. The gentleman to whom I refer, Mr. 
J. L. Cobbin, of Cape Town, South Africa, had published 
an improvement on Pitman's Shorthand under the title, 
" The Student's Shorthand "; and papers from his pen were 
read and discussed with great interest at the meetings of the 
famous " Shorthand Society," of London. Some of the 
American shorthand publications of that time also gave 
considerable space to his views on shorthand matters. 

It is not known to the profession that shortly before his 
death Mr. Cobbin became intensely interested in our system, 
and sent me many warm commendations of it — inter- 
spersed, I must admit, with pleas for the retention of certain 
Pitmanic features to which long habit had accustomed him. 
His letters contained many acute and philosophic reflections 
about shorthand systems and shorthand principles. Among 
other things, he said: "Your shorthand, I can plainly see, 
will endure a great amount of scribbling without becoming 
illegible. This is a high recommendation, evident at a 
glance to any practical shorthand writer — the mere ama- 
teur's opinion I consider as utterly valueless." He then 
went on to say : 

The very worst fault in Pitman's Shorthand is caused 
by an insufficient provision being made for re-duplicating 
certain consonants, such as t, d, p, b, k, g, ch, j, and com- 
pelling the writer either to make a double-length stroke thick 
in one half and thin in the other or vice versa, or to sacrifice 
phonetic propriety by substituting one letter for another or 
making the whole line of one thickness. Such outlines, for 
instance, as, pb, bp, td, dt, kg, chj, jch, are intolerable; and 
yet there are many words in which they must be written in 
Pitman's Shorthand. Happily your shorthand abhors such 


Incessant Changes Due to Shading. — If you trace the 
many changes that have been made in the Isaac Pitman 
system — averaging an important change for every three 
years of its existence, as has been shown by Dr. William D. 
Bridge — you will find that most of them are due to an 
effort to keep the writing to the line. This is true also of 
many of the reporting contractions that have been adopted. 

To remedy the fundamental defects in the system Isaac 
Pitman built up a supplementary alphabet of alternative 
forms. The result is that r can be written in Pitman's 
Shorthand in three different ways: an upward stroke, a 
downward stroke, and a hook; I also has three characters; 
sh can be written in two ways — upward or downward ; the 
unimportant h has four characters (and two of these are 
compound characters) ; s has two characters; t and d can 
each be expressed in two ways, and so can /, v, and n; 
while w and y, in addition to the signs used to represent 
them (compound signs, too), can each be prefixed to other 
letters in six different ways ! 

Other Evils Follow. — On account of the insertion of the 
vowels it is not necessary in our system to have special 
signs for w and y, but in the Pitman scheme not only are 
separate — and compound signs — assigned to these letters, 
but as these are inadequate, a clumsy expedient is intro- 
duced by which w and y are each prefixed to vowels in six 
different ways ! 

Speaking of the absurdity of expressing the aspirate 
(which Mr. Pitman described as " a mere breathing ") in 
four different ways — by two compound characters, a tick 
and a dot — this naive passage in Pitman's Handbook for 
Shorthand Teachers will be read with amusement by many 
of our readers: 

The very wealth of Phonography is sometimes the cause 
of perplexity to beginners. They are so accustomed to writ- 


ing a letter in longhand always the same way that when 
they discover that the aspirate may be written in Phonog- 
raphy in four ways, they do not readily grasp the idea. 

I have mentioned twelve letters which are represented 
in Pitman's Shorthand by no less than thirty-six characters 
or expedients. In view of this profusion of alternatives 
it is more than surprising that Isaac Pitman, in criticizing 
the system of Samuel Taylor, should say: 

Two forms should never be given to one letter ex- 
cept from manifest necessity, and such necessity 
should be avoided as much as possible in the construc- 
tion of the system; because, with respect to every 
word containing any such letter it becomes necessary 
to determine by practice which of the several forms 
of the letter is most judicious in that particular word. 
Though this is an advantage in giving a variety of out- 
lines to the words, yet when the principle is extended 
to a great many letters, the toil is greater than the re- 

The views of the author of Phonography on this subject 
will be approved by every experienced shorthand writer. 
And it embodies the strongest of all arguments against 
hitman's Shorthand. 

His brother, Benn Pitman, in his " Manual of Phonog- 
raphy," Par. 239-240, in speaking of outline formation, 

Since p, b, t, d, j, v, s, z, sh, zh, I, r, n, w, y, and h are rep- 
resented in Phonography in more than one way, it is ob- 
vious that many words may be written with several possible 
outlines. The word abbreviation, for instance, has no less 
than twenty possible forms, though, of course, only a few 
of them are at all practical. 

The difficulty of choosing the best from among various 
possible outlines causes, perhaps, more embarrassment to 
the average student of Phonography than any other one 


point, and is best overcome by repeatedly reading and copy- 
ing printed phonographic publications, and by consulting 
the Phonographic Dictionary, when a doubt arises, while 
writing original matter. 

" Waste of Material." — When you hear anyone repeat, 
parrot-like, something about the " wealth of material " in 
Pitman's Shorthand, or assert that there is a " waste of 
material " in systems written with the slope of longhand, 
just point to the awful waste of material involved in provid- 
ing twelve consonants with thirty-six methods of repre- 
sentation ! 

The selection, by Mr. Pitman, of the vertical stroke to 
express t and its cognate, d, was particularly unfortunate. 
As t is one of the three most common consonants in the 
language, its expression by a vertical stroke gave a down- 
ward tendency to the writing, as anyone can easily ascertain 
by an examination of a page of Pitman writing. In an 
effort to remedy this, there was introduced what I consider 
to be the most illogical device to be found in any system 
of shorthand — the half-length expedient. For the infor- 
mation of those who have not studied Pitman's Shorthand 
it may be well to explain that in the Pitman system when a 
letter is written half its usual length it is supposed to add 
t or d. As someone expressed it, you "subtract to multiply." 

"Multiplication by Subtraction." — Consider what 
this means. Manifestly a single letter is vastly more fre- 
quent than any combination of it with another letter; thus, 
the letter p probably occurs fifty or one hundred times 
where pt occurs once. Yet by the halving expedient 
the shorter sign is assigned to the combination and 
not to the single letter. 

From the standpoint of logic, the halving expedient 
is absolutely indefensible. It is merely an attempt to 
patch up an organic defect in the construction of the 


alphabet. But towards it, too, there has been a consis- 
tent effort to create a spirit of reverence. Anything that 
is abstruse and long established is accepted by many people 
without question when it is called " scientific"! 

In the Phonographic World for February, 1891, Mr. Justin 
Gilbert, official reporter, Boise City, Idaho, advises the 
shorthand author " to look well to it that each principle in 
his system is applied in such a manner as to afford the 
greatest possible benefit to the reporter and amanuensis. 
That the principle of halving to add t or d is not so ap- 
plied is evident, as will be seen at even a casual glance. 
The principle as it is now used is a very useful one, of 
course, but if applied in another direction it would be made 
more than five times as useful." 

A very talented Isaac Pitman reporter, Mr. George Far- 
nell, in a paper on "The Struggle for Existence in Short- 
hand Material," which was read before the New England 
Shorthand Reporters' Association in 1900, said: 

The halving of a letter was an old and well-tried expedi- 
ent long before Mr. Pitman's time, but theretofore had not 
been made use of for the purpose of addition. 

With an alphabet such as just referred to, the phonog- 
rapher is enabled to violate, with impunity, a fundamental 
rule of mathematics, and add to the meaning of a character 
by taking away something from it; in other words, to per- 
petuate the paradox of making addition by subtraction. 

The admission that the halving principle " violates a 
fundamental rule of mathematics " is hardly consistent with 
the claim that Pitman's Shorthand is the embodiment of 
"Nature, Science, and History!" Mr. Farnell, however, 
is more philosophic and decidedly more candid than most 
Pitmanic advocates, for he ends his paper with these words: 

While, personally, I cannot think that better systems are 
not possible, yet I admit to the weakness that I would leave 


the discovery of better systems to others, being content with 
present shortcomings, if there are any, rather than fly to 
others that I know not of. 

I repeat that the use of all these alternatives is the source 
of a very large percentage of the complication and indefi- 
niteness of Pitman's Shorthand. Had the alphabet been 
selected without the necessity of striking the most common 
pairs downward — a necessity due to the introduction of 
shading — there would have been no need of all these alter- 
natives, and therefore no need for the innumerable rules, 
and exceptions to rules, that abound in Pitman's Short- 

Because our system, like longhand, is free from compul- 
sory shading, it can be written with greater freedom and 
with greater speed than any of the shaded systems. And, 
to a great extent, its remarkable legibility is due to the 
absence of many of the fine distinctions required by any 
system in which shading is applied for any purpose. 

Before leaving this part of the subject it may be well 
to point out that the loss of time caused by shading is not 
due entirely to the process of thickening the characters. 
There are two other causes of loss of time: one is the ex- 
treme difficulty of executing in rapid succession light and 
heavy characters; and the other is the slight (but percep- 
tible) pause which must necessarily take place after each 
shaded character. The greater freedom of mind and hand 
secured through the elimination of the necessity for observ- 
ing different degrees of pressure will be apparent to any 

Mr. Thomas Allen Reed, in discussing brevity of outline, 
once said: " There are inflections and inflections. Twenty 
easy inflections may be written more rapidly than a dozen 
difficult ones with awkward joinings. The easy flow of a 


system is one of its more practical elements." That is an 
opinion that will be endorsed by every experienced reporter ; 
and there is nothing that contributes more to the " easy 
flow " of the writing than the elimination of thickened 


Since the last two chapters were written there has been 
a discussion of this subject under the above title at a meet- 
ing of the National Shorthand Reporters' Association. 

As a supplement to what I have written I am printing 
the remarks I made in the course of the discussion: 

Mr. President, I think you will realize that this is a sub- 
ject in which I am particularly interested. I ask your 
permission to say a few words on the subject. 

It is a truism to say that we are creatures of habit — 
habit of thought and habit of practice. I believe that in 
shorthand matters this is particularly true. The practice 
of a particular style of shorthand for a long time seems 
to create both mental and physical grooves which render 
it almost impossible to think of other principles or other 
forms than those with which we are familiar. 

Shorthand Systems the Product of Youth. — This is 
strikingly illustrated in shorthand by the fact that there 
has been no system of shorthand produced in any country 
that has achieved any marked success which was not pub- 
lished soon after its author was out of his teens; that is to 
say, before he became so fully imbued with certain prin- 
ciples or with certain methods of writing that it was im- 
possible for him to dissociate his thoughts from them. As 
the late Charles Currier Beale pointed out at one of these 
conventions, Isaac Pitman published his system at the 
age of twenty-four. Even the most original of the modi- 
fiers of the Pitman system, Mr. Graham and Mr. Munson, 



published their first works when they were twenty-four 
and twenty-nine respectively. Duploye, the author of the 
most popular of the French systems, was twenty-six when 
he first published his system, and Gabelsberger, the author 
of the most popular of the German systems, was twenty- 
seven, when after years of study he produced his great 
system. Incidentally I may mention that my system was 
published when I was twenty. 

I have no hope of convincing many of you of the great 
advantages which I believe are derived from the abolition 
of shading, simply because long practice has accustomed 
you to it; but I do believe I can at least set some of you 
to thinking about the subject in a way in which perhaps 
you have not thought about it before. 

What I have said about habits of thought and practice 
are shown in the case of the previous speaker. He has 
been a writer and advocate of Lindsley's Takigrafy for 
many years. The result is seen in all that he has written, 
and in the paper he has just read. Lindsley's Takigrafy 
was largely a modification of a Pitmanio system w T ith these 
important variations — connective vowels and greater line- 
ality, the latter being secured by the adoption of horizontal 
characters for t, d, and s, z. Where Pitmanic theory and 
practice is in accordance with Takigrafy, he endorses Pit- 
manic with enthusiasm; where Takigrafy differs from Pho- 
nography he endorses the Lindsley theory of practice. 
For instance, he condemns the use of the downward right 
diagonal (ch in Pitman) and the upward oblique (ray in 
Pitman) for different purposes. Why ? Simply because 
Lindsley's Takigrafy uses that character written either up- 
ward or downward for the same purpose. 

Now I contend, and I believe that most of you will 
agree with me, whatever system you write, that there is 
much more danger of confusing the vertical t with the 


oblique characters p or ch, in rapid writing than there is of 
confusing ch and r. The characters for ch and r differ not 
only in direction and slant but they are very seldom stand- 
ing alone either in Pitmanic shorthand or in Gregg short- 
hand. That is just an illustration of how long practice of 
Takigrafy has given a mental bias to his views of others 

The Question of Shading. — Much that has been said 
is absolutely irrelevant to the subject, but I shall try to 
keep myself strictly to the point at issue — shading. It all 
resolves itself into a question of loss and gain. I do not 
suppose that I need to argue that it takes longer to make 
a thick character than a light character. Mr. Andrew J. 
Graham stated that his investigations showed that it re- 
quired ten per cent more time to make a shaded character 
than to make a light character. Mr. McDermut, of Chi- 
cago, one of our most valued members, who passed away 
last year, stated that his investigations had convinced him 
that Mr. Graham had placed too low a figure on the loss oc- 
casioned by shading, which he said was at least thirty 
per cent. Suppose we put it at twenty per cent. 

All Script Systems Not Light Line. — The previous 
speaker referred to "script systems" as if all script systems 
were light-line systems. As a matter of fact, all the script 
systems that appeared before the publication of my system 
were shaded systems ; since then there have been two or three 
imitations of our system without shading. The question 
of shading has nothing to do with the script or cursive style 
of shorthand. On the other hand, there have been Pit- 
manic systems free from shading. For instance, there is 
a light-line shorthand by Mr. Thornton, an official reporter 
of high standing in Buffalo — and with whom I had the 
pleasure of dining a short time ago — and I learned to- 
day that it is represented by an official reporter who is at 


this meeting. Now Mr. Thornton's system is a Pitmanic 
shorthand, but it is free from shading, and Mr. Thornton 
claims an advantage on that account of twenty-five per 
cent in facility of writing. But, as I said before, let us 
put it at twenty per cent. 

There is a factor, too, that is not often taken into account 
in considering these things, and that is the pause which 
must necessarily take place after each shaded character. 
It is very slight, but the hand must adjust itself to varying 
degrees of pressure. This is especially noticeable where 
straight characters are written in the same direction, one 
shaded and the next light, or vice versa, as in the case of 
bp, or pb y kg, or gk, or dt. 

How Shading Affects Lineality. — The next factor is 
that of lineality or horizontality. In a statement made 
somewhere else by the previous speaker, he said that the 
horizontality of the writing in our system was " phenome- 
nally high, over 90 per cent, giving a remarkably close ad- 
herence to the normal line of writing," while the writing in 
Pitmanic shorthand had less than fifty per cent of horizon- 
tality. Now what does that mean? It means that in 
writing our system the hand of the writer at the end of a 
word-form or phrase-form is in position to begin the next 
one. There are much fewer ineffectual movements. You 
will all recognize the importance of that. Suppose we put 
the gain in that respect at ten per cent, which I think is a 
very conservative figure. That makes a gain of thirty 
per cent. 

Perhaps you do not see what bearing the absence of shad- 
ing has on the question of lineality. Well, the history of 
the shading principle as generally used is a very interesting 
one. Isaac Pitman has stated that he had been a writer 
of Taylor's system, which he learned from the Harding 
edition of that system. Harding distinguished v from / 


and z from s by shading — you will find the full story of 
this in Graham's Student's Journal — and Mr. Pitman in 
telling the story of the invention of the system said that it 
immediately occurred to him to extend this method of dis- 
tinguishing letters to all the phonetic pairs. In carrying 
out that idea he naturally gave the most frequent pairs of 
letters the downward direction, since shading could not be 
applied to upward characters very well, or even to hori- 
zontal characters with any facility. As you know, the 
result has been that many of the most frequent letters 
are struck downward, like t y d, s x z y one of the forms 
for I and one of the forms for r. That is why the writing 
in Pitmanic shorthand always tends downward. 

It is true that Takigrafy has greater lineality than Pit- 
manic shorthand, which I think explains the emphasis 
placed on that point by the previous speaker, but in Tak- 
igrafy it is obtained with an increase in the number of 
shaded strokes in a horizontal direction. I think I am 
perfectly safe in saying that, even if you approve of shad- 
ing as a sort of " necessary evil," you would not care to 
increase the number of shaded characters in a horizontal 
direction. On account of the absence of shading I was able 
to select horizontal lines to represent some of the most 
numerous letters, n, m, r y I, which accounts for the phenome- 
nally high degree of horizontality in our writing. 

Shading an Arbitrary Expedient. — The previous 
speaker made a somewhat elaborate argument to demon- 
strate that it was more natural to distinguish the phonetic 
pairs by shading. It may seem more natural to him be- 
cause long practice has made it familiar to him. I believe 
it is more natural to both mind and hand to distinguish by 
length. It is very natural to say and to think that " as the 
sound strengthens the stroke lengthens.' ' It is certainly 
more natural to the hand to make the distinction by length- 


ening, since that is the method used in longhand in distin- 
guishing e from I, and so forth; and in longhand writing 
there is no such thing as compulsory shading. 

These are some of the gains, just some of them, from the 
elimination of shading. I need hardly speak of the free- 
dom of mind and hand which the absence of shading must 
give. That will have occurred to all of you. 

The Halving Expedient Discussed. — Now what do we 
lose through the abolition of shading ? Simply the half- 
lengthening expedient to add t or d. I wonder how many 
of you ever analyzed how much is gained by the halv- 
ing expedient. The purpose of it is not so much the 
addition of t or d as the keeping of the writing to the 
line. Without the halving principle the entire body of 
the writing would tend downward. The previous speaker 
has stated that the horizontality in Pitmanic shorthand 
was less than fifty per cent. Without the halving princi- 
ple, it would be much less, as you will all realize. 

The argument as stated was that as we used the half- 
length for the first letter of the pairs, that is p, t, etc., and 
the full length for b, d, etc., we were losing time in making 
the longer character. Besides this, he said, we cannot add 
t or d by halving. Very good. Let us examine that 

The first point I would make is this: that all the alpha- 
betic characters in Pitmanic Shorthand are full length 
strokes. Mr. Graham computed that a full-length could be 
written only ninety-five times while a half-length was being 
written one hundred times. We have therefore, a decided 
advantage in that fact, because one-half of the alphabetic 
characters in our system are half-length, and these char- 
acters for t y p y f, r, n, etc., are jar more frequent than the 
full-length letters. 


Is the Halving Expedient Logical? — Next, what does 
the half-length represent in Pitmanic shorthand ? This 
character [illustrating] represents p; when it is written half- 
length it becomes pt. In other words, the half-length is 
assigned to the less useful purpose, because manifestly the 
combination pt is not nearly so frequent as the single letter 
p. Did you ever think of that? 

As one writer expressed it, you " subtract to multiply." 
It is not logical or natural to do this. There was an article 
in the Phonographic World many years ago, — I think in 
1893 — called " The Requiem of the Halving Principle," by 
a Mr. John H. Hotson, an accomplished Pitmanic writer. 
Mr. Hotson built up his argument from the basis of Mr. 
Graham's computation about short and long characters, to 
show that if all the basic characters of the phonetic pairs 
are represented by half-lengths and t and d added by 
lengthening instead of halving, there would be a great gain 
in compactness and facility. The article was illustrated 
by comparisons of matter written both ways. Personally, 
I think that Mr. Hotson's theory is absolutely correct in 
practice, and it certainly is logical. 

[Since this discussion I have looked up Mr. Hotson's 
article "The Requiem of the Halving Principle," Phono- 
graphic World, April, 1894, and the following quotation from 
it will make his argument clear to the reader: 

By incontrovertible calculations from indisputable facts 
and figures published by Mr. A. J. Graham in his "Hand- 
book," I worked out, in an article entitled "Comparative 
Brevity," in the July (1893) number of the Phonographic 
World, results showing the comparative length of time oc- 
cupied in writing every stroke and character entering into 
the composition of shorthand. For example, the time occu- 
pied in writing an initial small hook was found to be half of 
the time occupied in writing a full-length stroke; a small 
circle was found to equal 70 per cent of a stroke; a lifting 


was found to consume 36 per cent of the time taken to write 
a full-length stroke; a half-length stroke was found to con- 
sume 92 per cent of the time of a full-length stroke, etc., etc. 
It is from these facts that I propose to prove that the halv- 
ing principle is an utter failure in producing real brevity. 

If the halving principle were abolished entirely from a 
system in which it is now used, the alphabetical stroke would 
become the smallest stem stroke, and the present full- 
lengths could then be written the size of the present half- 
lengths, thus effecting a saving in point of time of 8 per 
cent on every one of such present full-lengths.] 

How often can you apply the halving principle? One 
writer who made a careful analysis of Graham writ- 
ing, in which the use of the expedient is pushed to a greater 
extreme than in any other system, stated that it could be 
used only in about sixty per cent of all the occurrences of 
t or d. In Taylor's Commentary on Pitman Shorthand, 
published by Isaac Pitman & Sons, there are, I believe, 
fifteen pages devoted to the explanation of when it cannot 
be used. 

If it were not for the fact that it helps to keep the writing 
to the line in Pitmanic shorthand, the half-length expedient 
would not be worth what it costs even in Pitmanic short- 

Variable Lengths. — Before leaving this subject I should 
like to take exception to the constant reference to "triple 
lengths" in Pitmanic Shorthand. In reality there are four 
lengths in constant use, and occasionally a fifth length. 
There are but three lengths in our system. In Isaac Pit- 
man Shorthand there are the following outlines [illustrat- 
ing] for due, admit, deem, diameter, in four lengths. You 
can write this: "You met my mother" (four lengths), or 
" You met my mother there " (five lengths), or " You met 
my lawyer's mother's motor there." I could go on illus- 
trating this indefinitely. 


Now, my friends, I do not expect many of you to under- 
stand fully all that I have said on this subject, or to agree 
with me, because you are not accustomed to a different 
mode of practice. All I ask is that you keep an open 
mind on the subject, remembering that all the alleged 
losses described are offset by advantages w T hich, to my 
mind, far outweigh them. If it were true that the losses 
were very great, then our system would be a very slow 
system. But you know that it has been written in 
the contests held by this Association at 196 words 
a minute on solid matter, 237 words a minute on 
jury charge, and 268 on testimony, by a young man who 
was then only nineteen years of age, and who is to-day 
the official reporter to the President of the United States. 
And the system is young ! There does not seem to be much 
loss on account of the elimination of shading in those rec- 
ords, does there? 


I have seen the time when I would have given the price 
of the transcript for a single vowel. 

— Isaac S. Dement 

The omission of the vowels is for the most part hazard- 
ous, and, indeed, to many a pupil, the pages he has just 
disfigured with such a system of writing have presented 
to his perplexed gaze little else than the appearance of a wil- 
derness of vague forms — a confused convention of exasper- 
ating nonentities. — Thomas Anderson 

Joined vowels have been used in shorthand systems from 
the beginning of the art. The Tironian Notes, which were 
used in reporting the orations of Cicero, employed joined- 
vowel signs, as did nearly all the early English systems. 

Writing on this subject, a well-known teacher of short- 
hand said: 

No one questions that consonants should be written in the 
order they are spoken in the word, and it is just as absurd 
that vowels should be written in as a disconnected after- 
thought as that they should be so spoken in a discourse or 
conversation, or that the words of a sentence should be sub- 
ject to such vagaries. 

To an orderly mind one of these departures from the nat- 
ural order of expression is no more offensive or confusing 
than the other. 

Writing, like speech, should be simple, direct, orderly, and 
continuous. If our position here is sound, we are forced 
to the use of connective vowels as being the only practicable 
method by which the sounds can be written in a word in the 



natural order in which they occur or are spoken, thus forming 
a continuous flow of sound pictures, grouped together in 
word families in such a way as to show their intimate re- 

Importance of Vowels. — The well-known reporter, Mr. 
Clyde H. Marshall, in an article on "The Mastery of Short- 
hand," emphasizes the importance of the vowels in an em- 
phatic way: 

The accented vowel is the most important and suggestive 
thing about a word. When we give ear to a speaker we 
hear him by vowels, if I may use that expression. The con- 
sonants, for the most part, are not really heard at all. 
We hear the speaker by his vowels and by his context. 

In an article in the Shorthand Writer, April, 1919, Mr. 
Marshall quotes with approval this statement: 

Explicit expression of the principal — usually the accented 
— vowel sound of a word is of superlative assistance to legi- 
bility. But much also depends upon the power to in- 
dicate definitely any prominent vowel sound, for again and 
again this has been found the clue to a tangled mass. 

And George R. Bishop, in the introduction to the re- 
vised edition of "Exact Phonography" (1893), said: 

It is needless to say, to one who has made our language a 
subject of study, that a vowel sound is often the most 
prominent and distinguishing sound that a word contains; 
in which case the facile and prominent representing of it be- 
comes especially important. 

This being the case, the absurdity of writing a consonant 
skeleton of the word and omitting the sounds which make 
the most impression on the ear will be clear to anyone. 

It is even more absurd and illogical to be compelled to 
retain the vowel-sounds in mind and their exact order and 
position in the word, so that after the consonant outline 


has been completed they may be expressed by dots and 
dashes placed in different positions alongside the various 
consonants of the word. 

The only thing that in any way justified the adoption of 
this unnatural method of expressing vowels was the belief 
that in order to obtain greater brevity than the 1 earlier sys- 
tems (which represented the vowels by strokes and in some 
instances by compound strokes) it was necessary to omit 
the vowels in practical writing. 

The Correct Theory Triumphs Eventually.— It may 
be admitted at once that the methods by which the vowels 
were expressed in the earlier joined- vowel systems were 
extremely clumsy, although some of these systems were 
practical reporting instruments — notably the Gurney sys- 
tem, which has been used for reporting the British Parlia- 
ment for over one hundred years. The principle was right, 
but the correct application of it had not been discovered. 
When a principle is right, it is only a question of time when 
the practical application of it will be evolved, and it was 
through experience and much experimentation that the solu- 
tion of the problem of joining vowels and consonants in their 
natural order without sacrificing speed, was discovered. 

At the present time the most familiar and impressive il- 
lustration of how the ingenuity of man, starting with a cor- 
rect theory, after many disheartening failures, and in the 
face of almost universal ridicule, achieves the "impossible," 
is to be found in the aeroplane. But in this series I prefer 
to take the development of the typewriter as being more 
closely allied to the art of shorthand. I think, too, that the 
existing conditions render the comparison more analogous 
and more interesting. 

I well remember the stir caused by the first typewriter 
with "visible writing." The writing was not so very visible 
at that, because it was necessary to bend forward and look 


over a large shield in order to see what had been written. 
But even that amount of visibility was an advantage, be- 
cause it obviated the lifting of the carriage to see the writ- 

The proprietors of the older machines assumed an air 
of lofty disdain over the new "fad" or theory. Said they, 
"The really expert operator does not need to look at what 
he has written" — which sounds very much like a para- 
phrase of "the really expert shorthand writer does not 
need to insert vowels very often." 

But the theory of "visible writing" was correct. Soon 
another machine came along embodying the principle in a 
more natural and practical way with the slogan "the writ- 
ing in plain sight." Still the older machines continued to 
maintain that visible writing was not worthy of consider- 
ation. After a long struggle a visible-writing machine won 
its way to the very front rank. 

In the meantime, touch typewriting had become popular 
and this furnished the manufacturers of the "blind-writing" 
machines with a new and more plausible argument. They 
said, "The touch operator does not need to look at his 
writing very often; indeed, the difficulty of seeing the writ- 
ing is an advantage, because it is an incentive to become a 
touch operator in order to avoid needless lifting of the car- 
riage!" That sounded very much like the statement quoted 
in a previous article, that shading was advantageous because 
it promoted "discipline of hand movement and concentra- 

But the visible-writing machines grew in popularity, 
until the older machines "scrapped" their old "blind-writ- 
ing" models and adopted the visible-writing principle — a 
decision which meant a revolution of their entire manufac- 
turing and sales organizations at an expenditure of many 


The theory of "visible writing" was right in the first 
instance. When a practical method of applying it was 
evolved, nothing could prevent its universal adoption. 

Points of Similarity. — It is not necessary to point out 
the striking analogy that exists in this story of the evolu- 
tion of "visible writing" in typewriters and the evolution of 
several principles of natural writing in shorthand. 

In the case of the representation of the vowels, it was a 
long step from the crude and illogical method of expressing 
vowels, by dots and dashes — when expressed at all — to ex- 
pressing them by joined strokes and dashes. Like the first 
attempts at "visible writing" in typewriters, the expression 
of such common letters as the vowels by joined strokes 
and dashes was so clumsy as to be open to serious objection. 
The principle was right, however, and it is the way of man- 
kind to persist in trying to find a solution of what is ap- 
parently insoluble. In the familiar phrase, " necessity 
is the mother of invention." 

Then came the very natural evolution towards the rep- 
resentation of the vowels by the smallest and most facile 
signs, circles, hooks, loops, as set forth in an interesting 
way by Monsieur Martin in a quotation given in this article. 

The third step was the assignment of the circles and hooks 
in accordance with the values of the material and the fre- 
quency of the vowels represented by that material. 

A Desideratum Accomplished. — In a discussion be- 
fore the Shorthand Society, London, in 1883, the famous 
reporter, Thomas Allen Reed — than whom there never 
has been a greater authority on Pitman's Shorthand, or a 
more enthusiastic advocate of it — made this admission: 

The advantage of joined vowels is no doubt very great. 
If a good system could be constructed in which the vowels 
and consonants could be all joined continuously, and, at 
the same time, the system could be as brief as other systems 


without vowels are, such a system would be a desideratum 
we should all hail with delight. 

It is perhaps superfluous to say that at the time he made 
this statement Mr. Reed had no idea that it would be 
possible to construct such a system ! Yet within five years 
from the time he made the statement such a system was 
published, and it is to-day written by more people and 
taught in more than five times the number of schools 
that are now teaching all forms of disjoined shorthand. 

Mental Independence Necessary. — The truth is that it 
is difficult for anyone to get away from impressions which 
have been placed in his mind by constant reading and prac- 
tice. Habits of thought and action control all of us. Since 
practically all the literature of shorthand for nearly three- 
quarters of a century — that is to say, during all the time 
shorthand was widely used — has been written or published 
by those who are interested in the maintenance of a certain 
style of shorthand, considerable independence of mind is 
required to emancipate one's self from the impressions 
thus produced. 

One result of the practical monopoly by the Pitman firm 
of the avenues of publicity in connection with shorthand 
has been that scant justice has been done to the great work 
for the advancement of the art which was accomplished 
by the authors of the early English systems — Taylor, 
Mavor, Gurney, Byrom, Stackhouse, Blanchard, and others. 
The references made to these systems have created an 
impression that they were utterly unworthy of serious con- 
sideration, and that really practical shorthand began with 
the advent of "Phonography." This is true also of the 
tone adopted toward French, German, and American sys- 
tems. Towards all of them the references in Pitman's pub- 
lications are contemptuous. In the first public expla- 
nation of "Light-Line Phonography" before the Liverpool 


Shorthand Writers' Association, an organization consisting 
exclusively of Isaac Pitman writers, in February, 1893, 
I said: 

For half a century clever Phonographers all over the 
world have been endeavoring to improve the Pitman method, 
and their efforts have resulted merely in certain modifica- 
tions of the superstructure of that system. It is utterly im- 
possible, ladies and gentlemen, to make any vital change in 
the foundation of the Pitman method. Had it been pos- 
sible to make any material advance on the old lines, it 
would have been made long ago by Messrs. Graham, Mun- 
son, Longley, or some of the other American adapters of the 
Pitman system. I might say, incidently, that I am far 
from sharing that contempt which is so commonly expressed 
concerning Graham and Munson, and I think that the writers 
who abuse our American friends in such unmeasured terms 
would find much to marvel at if they only studied the works 
of these talented American writers. 

In view of all this it has puzzled some thoughtful people 
to understand why the Gurney system, in which the vowels 
are represented by joined strokes — a very clumsy method 
of representation — should have been used for the official re- 
porting of committees in Parliament for over one hundred 
years. Lord George Hamilton once declared that the re- 
porting of the committees in Parliament was performed 
with "almost mechanical accuracy." 

Evolution of Joined Vowels. — The evolution of 
joined- vowel representation toward a natural and facile 
plan is one of the most interesting things in shorthand his- 
tory. In a previous article some extracts were given from 
a letter written to me soon after the publication of "Light- 
Line Phonography" by the distinguished French short- 
hand author and scientist, M. Jean P. A. Martin, of Lyons. 
It w T ill be remembered that Monsieur Martin commented on 
the radical departure from all previous theories of short- 


hand construction which I had made in giving the prefer- 
ence to curves over straight lines, and that he described 
"Light-Line" as being "mainly constructed after the prin- 
ciples laid down by Conen de Prepean, the real founder of 
continental shorthand." 

As I did not know anything about Conen de Prepean at 
that time, I asked Monsieur Martin who he was and what 
were the "principles laid down" by him. Monsieur Mar- 
tin's answer to my query is so interesting that I am going 
to quote it somewhat fully. In doing so, however, I must 
caution the reader not to accept unreservedly his statement 
that the plan of expressing the vowels by circles and hooks 
originated with Conen de Prepean. His very natural en- 
thusiasm for the achievements of a compatriot inclined my 
gifted correspondent to give Conen de Prepean more credit 
than w&s actually due him. 

Much as I dislike, at this time especially, to deprive a 
French author of the glory of originating this method of 
expressing the vowels, simple justice to earlier English 
authors compels me to say that circles and hooks were used 
to express vowels before Conen de Prepean's time. Stack- 
house, in 1760, used circles to express vowels — a small circle 
for a and a large circle for o, which is the very use made 
of them by Conen de Prepean, Aime-Paris, Emile Duploye 
and nearly all the other French authors of joined-vowel 
systems since that time. 

This method of using the small circle and the large circle 
has been adopted by several English and American systems. 
Blanchard, in 1786, used the small circle for a and o, and a 
large circle for w. Holdsworth and Aldridge, in their "Nat- 
ural Shorthand," published in 1766, used a small circle for 
o, a large circle for ow, a small loop for eu, and a 
large loop for wh. Oxley (1816) used a downward hook for 
u; and other early English authors made use of hooks for 


different vowels. Undoubtedly Monsieur Martin was not 
aware of these facts at the time he wrote me, any more than 
I was. 

All Honor To France. — Credit may be freely and 
gratefully given Conen de Prepean, and to Aime-Paris, 
Duploye, and the other French authors who followed his 
lead, for developing the principle of using circles and hooks 
for vowels, and for demonstrating its superiority to all other 
methods of vowel representation. It is possible, too, that 
they made the best use of that material for expressing the 
vowels in the French language, although I cannot speak on 
that subject from personal knowledge. When I come to the 
discussion of the use of the circles and hooks, I intend to 
show that the authors of adaptations of the French systems 
to English, and of systems for English which have copied 
the French vowel method, have all made a very serious mis- 
take in adopting the French arrangement of the vowels. 

The Noble Work of M. de Prepean. — With these 
preliminary remarks, I present Monsieur Martin's very 
interesting story of Conen de Prepean: 

Conen de Prepean published several systems, some of 
which are still in use in the French Parliament ; his alphabets 
were widely different from one another. Well, his systems 
are nigh forgotten, but his ideas and principles survived 
this unfortunate scientist who died in misery after a life 
spent over shorthand researches and experiments. Five of 
these principles are quoted, page 42 "Cours de Stenographie 
Franchise" by L. P. Guenin, edited by C. Delegrave, Paris. 
In fact, Conen de Prepean is the originator of the connec- 
tive vowel systems as they now stand. Without Conen, it 
is very likely that neither Duploye nor Sloan, nor you, nor 
anybody else, chiefly in England where Taylor reigned, could 
write any efficient system. The principles set forth by 
Conen look so natural, so simple, so self-evident that no 
shorthand author, no modern author, I mean, will ever dream, 
can ever dream of building a connective-vowel system upon 


other principles; Conen hit the nail on the head; unknow- 
ingly, unwittingly, as all others, you and I and all of us have 
adopted them. You have received them through Sloan, 
Sloan though Duploye, Duploye through Aime-Paris, Aime- 
Paris through Conen de Prepean. They are no news now, 
they are common property, everybody applies them among 
the connective-vowel shorthand authors and pays as little at- 
tention to how they came about as a child thinks of the 
originators or inventors of our Roman alphabet. Yet what 
a step from ideographic writing to Roman letter writing! 
What a tremendous advance! One might say, European 
civilization is the outcome of the 25 or 26 letters of the al- 
phabet. The alphabet is the greatest invention, the great- 
est blessing, and a boy of ten does not see in it anything 
particular; it is so common. The same thing occurs with 
Conen de Prepean's principles, the importance of which is 
not realized nowadays. 

When Conen de Prepean set to work he had before him 
two systems: Taylor's, which ignored vowels entirely, and 
Coulon de Thevenot's. Coulon de Thevenot wrote all the 
vowels; only the syllables were disconnected, each syllable, 
though very fluent, very linear, even compact was very 
complicated; no connection could possibly occur among 
the various syllables; it was a clumsy-looking system. 
Every modern shorthand writer swears that it is imprac- 
ticable because it does look so. Yet as it was in some re- 
spects founded on science (fluent, linear, compact enough) , 
it is a well-known fact that very efficient verbatim stenog- 
raphers used it with great success in spite of its bad looks: 
Coulon de Thevenot looks a tremendously huge thing. 
The point, then, was to make each syllable very short, 
and at the same time find out a way to retain the vowels 
and connect each element of the word. Taylor's system 
was there; what signs on earth could be added to his al- 
phabet? He had given the problem up himself by drop- 
ping the vowels altogether. Other people took to dots and 
accents; but that was cutting the Gordian knot instead 
of untying it. The vowels were a perfect puzzle. Of course, 
in older systems they were used, but the vowel was a com- 
plication. Gurney, for instance, has the following connec- 
tive signs for his vowels: 


[Here Monsieur Martin gave some of the illustrations 
of the compound signs used by Gurney.] 

Syllables were not short! and connecting was occasion- 
ally a very tough matter with the old alphabet that had kept 
special strokes for the vowels. 

Bertin-Taylor's disciples could show very brief outlines, 
and Conen de Prepean did not wish to double these in 
length to add the vowels. That was a very hard nut to 

Then Conen said: Let the vowel signs be jour times 
shorter than consonantal ones; that'll make a difference. 
Then let us take circles or loops, fractions of a small circle, 
and ticks as vowel signs. Yes; but Taylor's consonantal 
signs were not single strokes; some of them consisted of a 
hook or a circle and a stroke to represent one letter only ; the 
new loops and fractions of a circle would clash with the 
hooks of the consonantal signs. That was another puzzle. 
Shorthand materials were limited in number. . . . 

Besides, supposing that there should be no clashing be- 
tween the loops and hooks, the parts and parcels of the 
consonantal signs and the vowel signs themselves, the out- 
lines would at any rate be long enough. What should he do? 

Then Conen said: In order to represent each consonant 
by a simple sign, let us classify consonants phonetically 
and if p is short let it be the rule that the corresponding con- 
sonant b should be written long. So the problem of one sign 
for each sound was solved. 

Again, the problem of devising connective-vowel systems 
of shorthand was solved, in giving the vowels a form and 
size corresponding to their importance when compared to 
the consonants. 

I have not related here all we owe to Conen de 
Prepean; but if you have had patience enough to follow my 
explanation, you cannot help remarking that the principles 
of that man seem now so self-evident that nobody thinks of 
them; yet a hundred years ago Gurney, in supplying vowel 
signs, could not find his way out of bee otherwise than by 
an awkward combination of strokes for both vowels and 
consonants. In those days nobody, except Taylor, had yet 
found a way to use decent connective signs; Taylor was 
radical: he did not mention them, that's all; some did the 



same, I believe, before him. Pitman is but a disciple and 
modifier of Taylor. 

After this Conen was plagiarized extensively, went on 
working for all his life, spent a fortune, died a destitute and 
unhappy man, and is now forgotten. He is a true martyr of 
Shorthand. Whenever I see a new connective-vowel sys- 
tem I think of the poor fellow. What a sad thing! 

Excuse haste, bad writing; I am half asleep as it is near 
three o'clock and the morn is near, but I wanted to answer 
the letter of a brother in shorthand pursuits. 

Our Early Acknowledgment. — When I received this 
letter from Monsieur Martin in 1888 I was preparing a 
pamphlet entitled "Shorthand for the Million," and I took 
advantage of the opportunity to make this acknowledg- 
ment to Conen de Prepean: 

Circles, hooks, and loops have been adopted as the mate- 
rial suitable for the representation of the vowels. This prin- 
ciple was first laid down by M. Conen de Prepean, and has 
been adopted by nearly all the authors of modern con- 
nective-vowel systems as the most natural and effective 
method. It is only in the assignment of this material that 
most connective-vowel schemes differ, and experience proves 
that in this respect "light-line" hasi a very decided ad- 
vantage over all the plans hitherto published. The most 
facile signs have been carefully assigned to the representa- 
tion of the most frequently occurring vowels and vice versa, 
hence there is a far larger percentage of vowels inserted in 
rapid writing than in any other method. 

At that time I was not aware that Stackhouse, Blanchard, 
Oxley, and other English authors had anticipated Conen 
de Prepean to some extent in the use of the circles and 
hooks for the expression of the vowels. 

This chapter has extended to a greater length than I 
expected; largely on account of the letter from Monsieur 
Martin, which Was so interesting that I could not refrain 
from quoting it somewhat fully. 


The sound elements should always be written in the order 
in which they are heard. — Edwin Guest 

The slightest thought on the subject is enough to show that 
when outlines of consonants are alone used, they can, strictly 
speaking, have no sound at all. The place of the vowels 
may be guessed, so as to impart a living sound to a dead 
form. — Edward Pocknell 

As some of my readers have not studied other systems, 
it may be well to describe the method by which vowels 
are expressed in disjoined-vowel systems, when they are 
expressed at all. 

In Pitman's Shorthand, twelve vowels are expressed by 
a dot and a dash in three positions alongside the consonant. 
The dot is made heavy for certain vowels and the dash is 
likewise made heavy for certain vowels. In theory, at least, 
these fine distinctions are supposed to be observed in writing 
and to be observable in reading. 

A Scientific Analysis. — The best scientific demonstra- 
tion we have read of the absurdity and impracticability of 
this method of vowel representation was that made by Mr. 
Edward Anderson in the Journalist (London) for December 
15, 1888, in answer to an attack on the Taylor system, 
which had appeared in the Phonetic Journal. It gives us 
pleasure to quote Mr. Anderson's analysis of the manner 
in which vowels are expressed, when they are expressed, 
in Pitman's Shorthand. 

Consider for a moment what vowel-position really means 
in practice. The normal length of a consonant may be 



taken as % of an inch. Therefore in a system of three- 
placed vowels the dot or tick must be written accurately 
to the 42/1000 part of an inch. If a system admits half- 
length consonants (as Phonography does) then the vowel to 
the half-lengths must be written accurately to the 21/1000 
part of an inch. Moreover these extremely fine distinctions 
have to be adhered to when the hand is writing at the rate 
of say 150 words a minute equal to 2% words in every second 
of time. Is the thing practicable? Taylor says it is not. 
You almost agree with him, for you go on to say that 
Byrom's five positions are clearly too many; and these 
are equivalent to a distinction of the 25/1000 part of an inch, 
which gives a trifle greater scope than the Phonographic 
half-lengths. Besides, since the time of Taylor, the refine- 
ments of light dots and heavy dots, light dashes and heavy 
dashes have been invented, which render accuracy still more 
impracticable. In addition to all this we have the very 
weighty evidence of experts in Phonography, who tell us 
that it is not necessary or practicable to insert more than 
one vowel in every 30 or 40 words. 

What "Position" Fails to Do. — As it is utterly im- 
practicable to express many vowels by disjoined dots and 
dashes — made light and heavy and placed in certain posi- 
tions alongside the consonants — after the completion of the 
consonantal skeleton of the word, resort is had to position 
to indicate the vowels. As we have shown in another chap- 
ter, this simply means that the sixteen sounds (twelve vow- 
els and four diphthongs) are supposed to be indicated by 
three positions, an average of more than five for each po- 
sition. And the position does not tell where the vowel oc- 
curs in the word ! 

That accomplished shorthand reporter, Mr. George R. 
Bishop, in discussing the weakness of Pitman's Phonog- 
raphy in vowel expression, put the case very well He 

In the vowel department, there has been what seemed 
to be a grim despair as to finding any solution of the un- 


doubtedly serious difficulty — the case seeming hopeless, and 
an equally grim determination to disguise the existence of 
the defect. The mode of indicating vowels by "position" 
of the consonant signs was a device of the older shorthand 
systems long antedating Mr. Pitman. As Mr. Pitman 
adopted some consonant signs and devices from older sys- 
tems, so he seems also to have adopted from them this an- 
cient vowel indication idea. 

There was this marked difference, however— a difference 
which told heavily against him on the score of definiteness : 
that while the older systems indicated at most, six vowels 
by three positions, or two for each position, the Pitman 
undertook to indicate, with the same number of "positions" 
from fifteen to twenty sounds, including the diphthongs ; and 
while some of the old systems indicated their smaller num- 
ber of vowels merely as initial ones — those preceding the 
strokes so written in "position" — the Pitman undertook 
to indicate its larger number of sounds not only as pre- 
ceding, but also as following, the consonants written; thus 
doubling the already increased ambiguity. ... It is need- 
less to comment on the heavy task imposed on the short- 
hand writer who is obliged to guess which one of twelve 
different things indicated by the same position is the one 
actually intended in a particular instance. 

Yet many advocates of this clumsy, indefinite method of 
"indicating" five or more vowels by one "position" (which 
cannot be observed with precision in rapid writing) and in 
a manner which does not tell whether the vowel precedes 
or follows the consonant or, indeed, where it occurs in the 
word, will hold up their hands in absolute horror at the 
thought of three closely -related vowel sounds being ex- 
pressed in practical writing by one sign ! Could insincerity 
or prejudice — call it what you will — go farther than this? 

I am now going to give a number of quotations from emi- 
nent authors, reporters, and teachers on the importance 
of the vowels. The first quotation is from Mr. George R. 
Bishop, a distinguished reporter, and the author of "Exact 


Phonography." Mr. Bishop has been President of the New 
York State Stenographers' Association and President of the 
Law Stenographers' Association of the City of New York. 
His views on joined vowels are set forth in considerable 
detail in the preface to "Exact Phonography/' which was 
a very ingenious effort to incorporate joined vowels by 
strokes in a geometric system. 

Turning to the standard text-books of Phonography and 
looking for a practical illustration of this indefiniteness, one 
found that its author repeatedly recognized it as among the 
possibilities that a writer of this system would employ the 
same outline in the same position, with equal cogency, to 
represent any one of eight or nine different words: often 
necessitating, one would conclude, nearly as profound a 
study of contexts and the general drift and meaning of the 
matter reported as an archaeologist would need to em- 
ploy in the deciphering of a partly defaced ancient tablet. 

As one result of dissatisfaction at this indefiniteness, 
the last decade has witnessed the appearance of a consider- 
able number of new works on shorthand; a distinct effort 
to remedy this one more serious defect being discernible 
as a leading motive in most of them. In England this striv- 
ing after something better has been particularly note- 

In the Reporter's Assistant (Second Edition) we find 
" opened, pound, pent, append, compend, pained, paint, 
pinned, compound, penned, punned, oppugned," as different 
readings for the same sign in the same position. Obviously 
it might be difficult for even the most expert and best-in- 
formed writer to determine from the context which of these 
twelve words, eleven of which could be employed as verbs, 
was just the one to be transcribed, in a particular connec- 
tion. Leaving the expert writer, and coming to one not 
highly skilled — one unable to appreciate what best fitted 
the context — what would his situation be, assuming that he 
sought aid from the Reporter's Assistant? And what should 
we expect the mental state of a class of boys of thirteen or 
fourteen to be, if, on being first assembled as a class in 
phonography, it were described to them how much of in- 


definiteness there was inherent in the vowel part of the 
system — the "Assistant" being referred to as indicating one 
of the possible results of it? What matter of surprise is it 
that so little progress has been made in the teaching of 
shorthand in schools, in view of this inexact state of the art? 

Isaac Demerit's Emphatic Statement. — In the preface 
to his textbook on Pitmanic Shorthand (Second Edition) 
Mr. Isaac Dement said: 

I have seen the time when I would have given the price 
of the transcript for a single vowel. . . . Some of the best 
reporters of my acquaintance employ vowels very freely — 
if they cannot put them in at the time, the first lull finds 
them busy ornamenting their notes with them — and the poor- 
est reporters (?) I know say they have no need of vowels, in 
fact, never learned them. 

In an article on "Significant Tendencies in Shorthand," 
Mr. W. E. McDermut, a well-known court reporter in Chi- 
cago, who has written the Munson system for over thirty- 
years, said: 

It has been my experience, and it is that of many old re- 
porters with whom I have talked, that the fatal weakness 
of the Pitmanic systems lies in the general inability to de- 
termine how a word begins, whether with a consonant or a 
vowel, and if a vowel, what one. 

A Famous London Reporter. — The next quotation is 
worthy of a careful reading. It is from the pen of Mr. 
Thomas Hill, Past President of the Shorthand Society, 
London, head of the firm of Thomas Hill & Co., Law Re- 
porters, London. Mr. Hill has been a writer and reporter, 
using the Pitman system for over thirty-five years. 

As to the mode in which the vowels should be repre- 
sented, probably most experts would agree that joinable 
vowel signs, which could be written in the order of their 
occurrence, and woven, so to speak, into the texture of the 


word, would be preferable to the detached marks sprinkled 
in among the consonants, out of their natural sequence, after 
the consonantal skeleton has been placed upon the page. 
In any system the provision of a complete set of easily 
joinable vowels would do as much to compensate for short- 
comings which might exist in other parts of the steno- 
graphic scheme. 

Professional phonographers have, no doubt, often wished, 
when dealing with unusual words or difficult subject matter, 
that their system provided them with joined vowels, or, at 
least, with vowels of such shape that they could be joined 

A vowel occuring initially is generally the most distinc- 
tive vowel in the word, and for joining purposes it is prob- 
ably the most important. In some cases it is the only vowel 
which it is necessary to insert for the purpose of making a 
distinction between two words containing the same con- 
sonants. It may often lead to the recognition of a distorted 
outline, and so give a clue to the whole word. The inser- 
tion of an initial vowel would have prevented an equilateral 
triangle from being rendered as a collateral triangle in a 
sermon published in a once well-known serial. Apart from 
the characters for w and y, there is only one vowel in 
Phonography, namely, the long i, which will lend itself to 
junction with an outline, and the possibility of joining even 
that one is restricted to three or four consonants. 

An incidental benefit arising from the use of joined vowels 
is that it enables the first syllable or two of a long word to 
be used in many cases with safety to represent the whole 
word, and puts into the hands of an experienced writer 
a means of extemporizing contractions without the risk of 
illegibility. The clipping of words after this manner has 
been in use probably from the earliest days of shorthand, 
but a system in which connective vowels are used gives 
the best opportunities for carrying out this method of 

A Congressional Reporter. — The late David Wolfe 
Brown, author of "The Factors of Shorthand Speed," said: 


When a word, because unfamiliar, is indistinctly under- 
stood, the vowels are generally more clearly heard than the 
consonants, and though the consonant outline may be in- 
correct, a clearly expressed vowel may be so wonderfully 
suggestive as to settle beyond doubt the word intended. 

Herbert Spencer's Views. — The great English scientist 
and philosopher, Herbert Spencer, in his criticism of Pit- 
man's Shorthand dwelt strongly upon the unscientific na- 
ture of disjoined vowels. The analytical nature of his 
remarks on the subject show that this great authority had 
given the subject a great deal of thought. He said: 

The vowels are not sufficiently distinguishable. The 
sounds, e, a, ah, are indicated by dots, and au, o, oo, by 
small dashes; and it is hardly to be expected that in rapid 
writing these marks can be made with such accuracy as to 
insure their identification. Moreover, the distinction between 
the individual vowels, dependent as it is upon the placing 
of the dot or dash at the beginning, middle, or end 
of a consonant, is such as cannot be observed with certainty. 
And, further, the greater heaviness of touch by which the 
long vowels are known from the short ones can never be 
given with anything like precision without an amount of 
care inconsistent with expedition. . . . 

The legibility of the system is certainly injured by the 
apparent transposition of letters, resulting from the peculiar 
arrangement of the vowels. A dot at the beginning of a 
consonant is, as likely as not, to signify a vowel after it, 
or dot at the end to imply a vowel before. . . . 

Phonography looks simple in consequence of these move- 
ments having no representations upon paper, whilst in 
reality they require an equal amount of time with those that 
leave visible signs behind them. Nay, more; to lift the 
point of a pencil from the paper and carry it over the surface 
to make a dot at some other place, involves a more compli- 
cated muscular action than its transference to the same 
point along the surface (that is, without leaving the paper), 
and probably more time is expended in the motion. 


The initial difficulty which the student encounters in 
separating vowels and consonants is well expressed by- 
Julius Rasmussen, LL. B.: 

If the student takes up a Pitmanic system, he is taught 
to make outlines of the consonant characters and omit all 
silent letters and vowels, which may give him the same 
outlines for such words as eastern, Saturn, Austrian, stern, 
and strain. Since the student has for ten or fifteen years 
looked upon language as composed of consonant and vowel 
sounds, it will necessarily take him several months to learn 
to look at the language in this new way. And what is most 
important, while the writing is difficult the reading is still 
more difficult, and the consequence is that the transcript is 
very faulty. 

Masterly Statement of Case. — One of the most power- 
ful presentations of the arguments in favor of joined vow- 
els was made by Mr. Hugh L. Callendar, B.A., Fellow of 
Trinity College, Cambridge, author of "Cursive Shorthand": 

In the disj oined-vowel systems the consonant outline 
of each word is written first, and the vowels are dotted in 
afterwards in their proper places. This is called "vocal- 
izing" the outline. The writer has to go over each word 
twice, in a highly artificial and unnatural order, if he wants 
to put in the vowels, that is to say, if he wishes his writing 
to be legible. . . . 

It is often maintained that a detached vowel mark counts 
in loss of time only about as much as an extra lifting of 
the pen. This is very far from true. In addition to the 
lifting of the pen there is the time occupied in making the 
stroke or dot and locating it carefully in its proper position. 
This is not unnaturally found to be longer than the time 
required for the mere making of the same number of dots 
and ticks irrespective of position. Besides this, detached 
vowels usually involve hesitation: after finishing the con- 
sonant outline the writer has to make up his mind what 
vowels to insert and where, or whether he can leave the out- 
line unvocalized: with unskilled writers this is a fruitful 


source of loss of time: with skilled writers it is often almost 
unnoticeable. But the most serious hesitation generally 
occurs, and this even with the most skilful writers, after 
inserting the vowels and before proceeding to the next words. 
This is mpst strongly marked after inserting two or more 
vowels in one outline. It is probably due to the illogical 
order in which the vowels are written. The mind momen- 
tarily loses its place in the sentence, and has to go back and 
pick up the lost thread, so as to find what comes next. The 
result is that the insertion of detached vowel marks always 
involves such a disproportionate expenditure of time, that 
they must be omitted in writing at any reasonable speed. 

The chief advantage of detached vowels is that they pre- 
sent an appearance of brevity, and look neat, especially 
in print. They are so inconspicuous that the inexperienced 
eye does not realize the difficulty of inserting them accu- 
rately and takes no account of the aerial movements of the 
pen which their insertion involves. 

Significant Confession. — Perhaps the most convinc- 
ing indictment of disjoined vowels is to be found in a 
quotation given in "Progressive Studies in Phonography, " 
published by Isaac Pitman & Sons. Here it is: 

Just where the greatest speed is necessary, to write a 
consonant and then put in the vowels in their proper places, 
is where the most hesitation is likely to be. First, time is 
lost in getting the true sounds of the words; second, comes 
the quickly-to-be-disposed-of thought how to write the 
consonants the best way and which vowels to put in and 
how many (all this is less than a second). By this time the 
outline has made such spasmodic jerks that full-lengths are 
half-lengths and half-lengths are twice as long as they ought 
to be, or an intended hook has been made into a circle or a 
circle into a hook. 

The Dual Analysis of Words. — Another view of the 
matter is presented by Mr. D. Kimball: 

In Phonography all the vowels are of necessity written 
separately from the consonants, i. e., must be written beside 


the consonant so as to show what sound they represent 
by the position they are in. It is so difficult to put them in 
their exact position in writing, even beside full length con- 
sonants, where the writer must bring his pen down one- 
twelfth of an inch, and be sure a dot does not lengthen 
into a dash, that were this the only defect it would be an 
almost effectual bar to rapid writing. But consonants are 
made half-length — about one-twelfth of an inch long, each 
of which has also its three positions. We venture the asser- 
tion that the person never lived who had that accurate 
command of his hand that would enable him to write vocal- 
ized Phonography fifty words a minute and get his dots and 
dashes the right shape, and just where they belong, beside 
the full and half-length consonants. This is never attempted 
in practical work; but it is a necessary part of the theory, 
a hideous nightmare to the learner and user. 

Mr. Kimball then describes the "dual analysis of words 
necessary in Phonography" : 

The difficulty of writing sufficiently exact to be legible 
mentioned above, is a minor one compared with that of the 
double analysis which the writer of Phonography is com- 
pelled to go through with each word when fully expressed. 
He is obliged first to go through each word mentally, analyze 
it, pick out the consonants and write them; then, beginning 
the word again, re-analyze it, pick out the vowels and dot 
or dash them in beside the full or half-length consonant, 
being sure he remembers their positions and lands them 
exactly where they belong, or he will rue it when he comes 
to read. 

After giving some illustrations of this troublesome proc- 
ess, he concludes with this: 

As a necessary accompaniment of this tedious, unnatural 
and burdensome double analysis, comes the slow, uncertain 
and difficult process of putting in the disconnected dots and 
dashes beside the consonants — a process so irksome that 
most phonographic writers prefer to halt, stumble, and guess 
in reading unvocalized outlines rather than go to the extra 
time and trouble of putting in the vowels in so awkward 


and unnatural a way — unnatural because the order of the 
letters is not that of the words in which they occur — one 
does not think that way, speak that way, or write that way, 
except when he is trying to use this exceptional, crude, and 
ill-devised scheme. It is too laborious, unnatural, slow, 
and unsatisfactory for practical use even by the devotees 
of the system. Yet it is the best they have to offer. 

Advantages of Joined Vowels Summarized. — One 

of the best presentations of the case for joined vowels is 
to be found in a paper on ''The Power of Connective- 
Vowels in Shorthand/' which was read by Mr. Peter Vogel, 
law reporter, before the Pennsylvania Shorthand Reporter's 
Association in 1904. Mr. Vogel is a writer of Lindsley's 
Takigrafy — a connective-vowel system on a Pitmanic basis. 
Here are some paragraphs from this paper: 

Vowels not dependent on position can be independently 
written, and so furnish a broader basis for "wordsigns," 
and relieve the overloaded consonants, and in that propor- 
tion at least, enhance legibility. 

It is often much quicker to write the vowel than to move 
to position and have, besides, something to read instead 
of ending with a guess. The resulting outline on paper 
may seem to be the longer, when in reality it is shorter. So 
both speed and legibility are gained. 

Besides, the necessary lifting of the pen and replacing it 
on paper at "position" adds immensely to this invisible 
"waste of material," which so deceivingly looks like brevity 
and speed. 

When the eighteen vowels and diphthongs are distributed 
to three positions, as in Phonography, say six to a place, the 
riddle in reading is, "Which of the six is meant?" And 
if there happens to be a series of like ambiguities following 
or preceding, the solution may become dangerous. Some 
years ago, for example, a Democratic and a Republican 
reporter "took" a political speech in Phonography for 
their respective St. Louis papers, and an important passage 
appeared in print diametrically opposite in sense, resulting 


in a considerable quarrel. When the matter was sifted, 
each reporter had the same consonant outline and the differ- 
ence lay in the political spectacles through which the absent 
vowel was seen. This could not have happened with a 
connective vowel. 

While the peculiar outline often determined where the 
vowel to be guessed at should go, it sometimes becomes 
enough of a problem to determine its imaginary habitat to 
delay and even puzzle the reader. 

For the sake of having the outline-form kept to determine 
the place where the guess comes in, it becomes necessary 
to commit many special forms, where the connective-vowel 
writer can proceed with delightful abandon. 

A connective vowel often relieves what would otherwise 
be a bad angle, and here again the longer form is the speed- 
ier, in addition to being definite. 

The number of possible outlines can be greatly multiplied 
by the use or absence of a vowel, and so relieve consonant 
outlines from congestion and make them more definite. 

The definiteness which a written vowel gives to an abbre- 
viation often enables one to shorten it beyond what is other- 
wise possible, thus contributing to speed and retaining 

The absence of a vowel in a particular place is often in 
a connective-vowel system an indication of what it is, from 
the fact that had it been another vowel it would have been 
so easily written at that particular place that it would not 
have been omitted. 

Proper nouns, such as names of persons and places, es- 
pecially when unfamiliar, must be vocalized to be legible, 
and where there is a succession of them, as often happens, 
Phonographic "position" is inadequate, vocalization too 
slow and longhand out of the question. 

A similar thing is true in meeting the expert witness. 
No reporter, especially no young reporter, can be acquainted 
with all the new terms of advancing science and art, and 
many of these terms when unvocalized are either hopelessly 
confused or irretrievably lost. 

Position-writing to express omitted vowels depends on 
the accented vowel, is governed by it, when as a matter 
of fact that is often far from being the important vowel in 


the word or the most helpful either in writing or reading the 

As said before, there is quite an extended and growing 
list of words wholly vowel, where Phonography must always 
utterly fail. 

Position writing is a hindrance to freedom in phrasing 
and often requires a word to be read against the position 
it occupies. Here the connective vowel is peculiarly at 

I have now said enough, and quoted enough in support of 
joined vowels. The next point is: How shall the vowels 
be represented in a joined- vowel system? As the vowels 
are vastly more frequent than consonants, it follows logic- 
ally that if vowels are to be joined, they should be ex- 
pressed by the most facile of all characters — circles and 
hooks. As Mr. Kimball put it in "How Shall We Write?": 

Consonants are to a word what the bones are to the body — 
the large, strong framework. Vowels are to words what the 
flesh is to the body: they give to them form, flexibility, 
volume. It is desirable that two classes of sound should 
be represented by letters readily distinguishable; to the 
consonants should be assigned large letters, and it is best 
that the vowels should be represented by small letters. 

Even that militant champion of Pitman's Shorthand, 
Thomas Allen Reed, in reviewing the Duploye system, 
makes this admission: 

The use of the circle for certain vowels enables many 
short words, in which some vowel representation is abso- 
lutely necessary, to be easily and briefly written without 
lifting the pen. 

When it is remembered that the great bulk of the words 
the stenographer will have to write are "short words" the 
significance of this admission will be apparent. 


Circle "Speeds the Writer." — In Pitman publications 
in England, no writer is more frequently quoted at the 
present time than Mr. James Hynes, the manager of the 
London office of Isaac Pitman & Sons. One of the Pitman 
publications recently contained a series of "Lecturettes 
on Pitman's Shorthand/' by Mr. Hynes. These lectur- 
ettes were evidently written for the purpose of minimizing 
the numerous difficulties of Pitman's Shorthand. The 
airy way in which Mr. Hynes disposed of some of the prob- 
lems that confront both learner and teacher must fill the 
mind of anyone who is familiar with the subject with 
something like admiration. But the difficulties remain! 

Mr. Hynes did not confine himself to mere exposition of 
rules and exceptions to rules. Here and there he diverges 
from the main topic to defend the system of his employers. 
Speaking of the use of the circle for s, for instance, he says: 

The system is built for speed. . . . Think of the ex- 
traordinary facility of form provided by the use of the small 
circle for s, and how, as a matter of fact, the inclusion of the 
circles actually speeds the writer, in the majority of cases, 
by reason of the easy, graceful sweep with which the outline 
can be made as a result of the introduction of the circle into 
the form. It is an interesting and undoubted fact that the 
writing of the circle s medially, though it adds another sign 
to the outline, in a great majority of cases very materially 
increases the speed at which the outline can be written. You 
only have to try such forms as jsn, msl, rsm, rslv, psj, tsk, ksp, 
with and without the circle, and I am sure you will agree 
with the statement. 

Evidently Mr. Hynes has been profiting from our analy- 
sis of the value of the circle! The interesting fact is this: 
That our statements about the circle — made again and 
again, in almost the identical language now used by Mr. 
Hynes — have been vociferously denied and ridiculed by the 
advocates of Pitman's Shorthand! It is refreshing to have 


our theories so ably championed by an employe of the 
Pitman firm! If Mr. Hynes is correct in his statement 
about the circle increasing the speed of the writing, the 
question is: Which system has made the best use of the 
circle? Manifestly s does not occur by any means as often 
as the vowels e and a, hence the circle which, according to 
Mr. Hynes, "speeds the writer," occurs much more fre- 
quently in Gregg Shorthand than in Pitman's Shorthand. 
Mr. Oliver McEwan, who was for many years regarded 
as a high authority on Isaac Pitman Shorthand, said: 

Now all shorthand writers know that an outline composed 
of two straight strokes connected by a circle is usually more 
easy, or at least quite as easy, to write as a combination of 
the same two strokes without the circle. The circle occupies 
no time in writing, its formation being equal to the making 
of the angle at the point of union of the two strokes. The 
Pitman outline for task (tsk) is quite as easy to write as the 
outline for take (tk). 

But there is considerable difference in the manner in 
which circles and hooks are used to represent vowels in 
various joined- vow'el systems. When we discuss the appli- 
cation of these various basic principles in the construction 
of the alphabet of "Light-Line Phonography," we hope to 
demonstrate very conclusively that the plan followed by 
the French systems and by the adaptations of these systems 
to English, and which was copied by several indigenous 
systems, is not the most practical one for the English 


If one were to collect even a tithe of all the articles that 
have been written setting forth the advantages of joined 
vowels, the result would be a volume of very imposing 
dimensions. While I was going over much that has been 
w r ritten on the subject for the purpose of finding some of 
the quotations which have been given in previous chapters, 
it struck me as remarkable that in all the discussions there 
was hardly a reference to the gains in brevity or in speed 
secured by the use of joined vowels. 

Joined Vowels Contribute to Brevity. — The gains 
in legibility from the use of joined vowels have been em- 
phasized over and over again, as well as the gains in sim- 
plicity through "writing the sounds in their natural order 
as they occur." These gains are very obvious. But, while 
the gains in speed from the inclusion of the vowels are not 
quite so obvious — especially to those who have not written 
a joined- vowel system — they are very real and very im- 
portant. It is my observation that even many of those who 
write a joined- vowel system do not appreciate fully the 
many ways in which joined vowels contribute to brevity 
of outline. 

For that reason I shall try to make clear some of the 
ways in which joined vowels contribute to brevity of form, 
beginning with the most obvious one. 

The Abbreviating Principle. — Even writers of dis- 
joined- vowel systems concede that the insertion of vowels 



permits of an extensive use of a very natural method of 
abbreviation which can be applied only to an extremely 
limited extent in systems in which the vowels are disjoined. 
In referring to this, Mr. Thomas Anderson, author of "The 
History of Shorthand," said: 

The natural way to abbreviate our words in the spelling 
is to give the first portion of them accurately; thus, for ex- 
ample, ety is a better abbreviation for etymological than 
tmlgkl, because it is both rational and sufficient, and so 
is ery for erysipelas; so with others of kind. The accurate 
and invariable presence of the vowels is the cardinal merit 
of Gurney's system and has attracted millions to the coffers 
of that firm, W. B. Gurney & Sons. 

While the illustrations given by Mr. Anderson do not 
appeal to us very much, as the words are unusual, his 
statement of the matter is sound. 

A teacher recently wrote us: 

The following words occur in a book which is now lying 
open before me : "In long words only so much need be writ- 
ten as will afford an easy clue." You may think this was 
written by a Gregg writer; but you will be wrong. These 
words are written with respect to Pitman's Shorthand ! They 
occur in "German Shorthand n an adaptation of Pitman's 
Shorthand to the German language. It is the abbreviating 
principle set forth in as simple language as one could 
possibly wish for. 

Obviously the reason why Pitmanic writers do not make 
greater use of the abbreviating principle is that this valu- 
able and natural method of abbreviating cannot be used 
advantageously to any great extent in a system in which 
the vowels are omitted. 

The Journalist (London) for February 18, 1887, in a 
review of systems, put it very well: 


We confess that at one time joined-vowel systems had 
no charms for us. . . . 

There is another point about joined-vowel systems which 
is certainly overlooked D3' the partial critic, and that is the 
power of abbreviation by using half the word for the whole. 
When a system which relies wholly on unpronounceable con- 
sonants attempts this method, it ignominiously fails. But 
when, as in the connective-vowel systems, the vowel can be 
shown where the word is broken off, the plan can be advan* 
tageously adopted. 

The Pitmanic systems use the principle where it is pos- 
sible for them to do so, which is not very often. The 
greatest of the many "improvers" of Pitmanic shorthand, 
Andrew J. Graham, in his "Hand-Book of Standard Pho- 
nography" (p. 120), says: 

Apocope is the elision of some of the final letters of the 

As illustrations he gives impos — for impossible, impos- 
sibility; prac — for practicable, practicability. (That is 
carrying the principle much farther than is done in Gregg 

And on the next page he says: 

An affix-sign, especially when it cannot be conveniently 
joined, may be omitted by the reporter whenever its omis- 
sion would not seriously endanger the legibility of his writ- 
ing; thus, corn-ens, commencement ; ray-en-jay, arrangement ; 
ned-stend, understanding; iths-gay, thanksgiving; jer-gay, 
jor -giving; lev-kind, loving kindness. 

Mr. Oliver McEwan, who was for many years a well- 
known exponent of Isaac Pitman's Shorthand, in an article 
in the Shorthand and Typewriting News, said: 

Skillful writers are in the habit of contracting lengthy 
words of frequent occurrence by abbreviating them to the 
first syllable, or the first two syllables, or to a sufficient num- 


ber of syllables to clearly indicate what the word intended 
is. For instance, benevolent is clearly indicated by writing 
merely the first two syllables — bene v., dignity is sufficiently 
represented by means of the letters dig. So the shorthand 
inventor finds, ready at hand the most convenient means 
of contracting lengthy words without in any degree sacrificing 
legibility. . . . 

It is possible for two words to have the same outline and 
still not clash. Words will never clash unless they are of the 
same part of speech, the same gender, number, and case. 
You will see, then, that we reduce the possibility of clashing 
to the smallest possible compass. Dg — representing dignity, 
also represents dig, dug, but it will be impossible for any sane 
shorthand writer to experience difficulty in deciding which 
of these words is intended by the outline dg — the context 
will clearly indicate which word is intended. 

A Graphic Illustration. — In the course of an exposition 
of our system before a teachers' association in England 
Mr. T. S. Halton emphasized the value of the abbrevi- 
ating principle, and in doing so he made use of a new and 
excellent illustration. He said: 

Take the word rhinoceros. Pitman writes rnsrs, Gregg 
writes rinos — diphthong t and the accent on the nos. Now 
any ordinary person can recognize a rhinoceros by its head 
and shoulders, but it takes a skilled anatomist to recognize 
it from its skeleton and dry bones. 

We cannot recall a more vivid and convincing way of 
stating the matter that is contained in this illustration. 

The abbreviating principle is marvelously simple, mar- 
velously adaptable, and marvelously effective. It is the 
principle over which Pitmanic writers become most en- 
thusiastic when they master our system. As it is a new 
thing to them — and contrary to previous practice in a 
system based on the idea of expressing consonants and not 
vowels — they usually view it with misgivings at first. Per- 


haps this is why they are so enthusiastic about it later when 
they find that not only were their misgivings without foun- 
dation, but that the principle is so valuable. Writers of the 
system who have not written a Pitmanic system previously 
are sometimes puzzled to know why "converts" to our sys- 
tem are so enthusiastic about the Abbreviating Principle; 
to them the application of it is so natural and easy that 
they give it no more thought than they do to the turning 
of an electric light switch. 

Its "Exhaustless Power." — Referring to this timidity 
about the Abbreviating Principle on the part of those who, 
like himself, had used Pitmanic shorthand for many years, 
Mr. Charles M. Miller, of New York, in his address as the 
first President of the Gregg Shorthand Association of Amer- 
ica — after narrating his experiences in changing from Pit- 
manic shorthand after having written it professionally for 
more than twenty years, paid an eloquent tribute to the 
abbreviating principle. He said: "I have found the ab- 
breviating principle of the system, and the power that lies 
behind it, the most fascinating of studies. . . . Now that 
it is so simple to me, and I know its exhaustless power, I 
want you to know it as well." 

In the previous article we quoted the views of one of the 
most respected of the London professional reporters, Mr. 
Thomas Hill, who has written Pitman Shorthand for more 
than thirty-five years. I repeat one paragraph, as it ap- 
plies to this subject: 

An incidental benefit arising from the use of joined 
vowels is that it enables the first syllable or two of a long 
word to be used in many cases with safety to represent the 
whole word, and puts into the hands of an experienced 
writer a means of extemporizing contractions without risk 
of illegibility. The clipping of words after this manner has 
been in use probably from the earliest days of shorthand, 
but a system in which connective vowels are used gives the 


best opportunities for carrying out this method of abbre- 

In the introduction to a series of articles on "Abbrevia- 
tions" in Pitman's Journal, Mr. E. A. Cope, in speaking of 
"the abbreviating instinct," said: 

Mankind has always been addicted to short-cuts, given 
to striving to save time and labor. . . . 

It took the word "omnibus" and reduced it to "bus." It 
curtailed "cabriolet" and left us with the irreducible syllable 
"cab." It cut down "tramway-car" to "tram," and is con- 
verting "perambulator" into "pram." It refused to tolerate 
"taximeter-cab" and insisted on saying "taxi." Even 
"motor-car" was too long for it, and it substituted "motor." 
"Pianoforte" it deprived of its final syllable, giving us the 
familiar "piano." It dethroned "bicycle" in favor of "bike." 
And when the vivacious medical student insists on calling the 
"Criterion" the "Cri" and the "Pavilion" the Pav," he is 
following a succession of well-established precedents. 

This confirms in a very striking way Mr. Anderson's 
statement that this method of abbreviation is the most 
natural that can be applied. 

A Poetical Illustration. — The beauty, practicability, 
and power of the "abbreviating principle" is graphically 
shown in the following poem by Mr. Harry Graham, 
which appeared in the Century Magazine several years ago, 
just after President Roosevelt had issued his famous order 
in regard to spelling reform. 

We do not know whether Mr. Graham is a writer of the 
system or not, but he has assuredly grasped the genius 
of the abbreviating principle. There is not an abbreviated 
word in it that is not instantly recognizable. Even with the 
verse dealing with golf — which to many is a technical sub- 
ject — such words as "hazard," "niblick," "Haskell," and 
"bunker" are unmistakable to any one of ordinary sense. 

Such a principle is possible only in a system like ours 


where the essential vowels are an unmistakable part of the 
form. Vowels are what give the life, vividness, and "voice" 
to words, make them speak out truly and clearly. A mere 
consonant outline is nothing — "unspeakable," because you 
can't pronounce it. An outline made up of the consonants 
in a word only is but a skeleton of "dry bones." The vow- 
els add red blood, flesh, and sinew. They make the word 
a thing of life. And the simplicity of the abbreviating 
principle is one of its greatest charms. You are not ham- 
pered by rules, restricted and confused by exceptions. You 
simply write the part of the word that is unmistakably 

Conversational Reform 

When Theo: Roos: unfurled his bann: 

As Pres: of an immense Repub: 
And sought to manufact: a plan 

For saving people troub: 
His mode of spelling (termed phonet:) 
Affec: my brain like an emet: 

And I evolved a scheme (pro tern.) 

To simplify my mother-tongue, 
That so in fame I might resem: 

Upt: Sine:, who wrote "The Jung:", 
And rouse an interest enorm: 
In conversational reform. 

I grudge the time my fellows waste 

Completing words that are so comm: 
Wherever peop: of cult: and taste 

Habitually predom : 
'Twould surely tend to simpli: life 
Could they but be curtailed a trif: 

For is not "Brev: the soul of Wit"? 

(Inscribe this mott: upon your badge) 
The sense will never suff: a bit, 

If left to the imag: 
Since any pers: can see what's meant 
By words so simp: as "husb:" or "gent:" 


When at some meal (at din: for inst:) 

You hand your unc : an empty plate, 
Or ask your aunt (that charming spinst:) 

To pass you the potat:, 
They have too much sagac:, I trust, 
To give you sug: or pepp: or must: 

If you require a slice of mutt: 

You'll find the selfsame princ : hold good, 
Nor get, instead of bread and butt:, 

Some tapioca pudd:, 
Nor vainly bid some boon-compan: 
Replen: with Burg: his vacant can. 

At golf, if your oppon: should ask 

Why in a haz : your nib : is sunk, 
And you explain your fav'rite Hask: 

Lies buried in a bunk:, 
He cannot very well misund: 
That you (poor fooz:) have made a blund: 

If this is prob: — nay, even cert: — 

My scheme at once becomes attrac: 
And I (pray pard: a litt: impert:) 

A public benefac: 
Who saves his fellow-man and neighb: 
A deal of quite unnecess: lab: 

Gent: Reader, if to me you'll list: 

And not be irritab: or peev:, 
You'll find it of tremend: assist: 

This habit of abbrev:, 
Which grows like some infect: disease, 
Like chron: paral: or German meas: 

And ev'ry living human bipe: 

Will feel his heart grow grate: and warm 
As he becomes the loy: discip: 

Of my partic: reform, 
(Which don't confuse with that, I beg, 
Of Brander Matth: or And. Carneg:) 


" 'T is not in mort: to comm: success," 
As Shakes: remarked; but if my meth: 

Does something to dimin : or less : 
The expend: of public breath, 

My country, overcome with grat:, 

Should in my hon: erect a stat: 

My bust by Rod: (what matt: the cost?) 
Shall be exhib:, devoid of charge, 

With (in the Public Lib: at Bost:) 
My full-length port: by Sarge: 

That thous: from Pitts: or Wash: may swarm 

To worsh: the Found: of this Reform. 

Meanwhile I seek with some avid: 
The f av : of your polite consid : 

Disjoined Prefixes and Suffixes. — Disjoined-vowel 
systems, in which dots and dashes are used for vowels, are 
limited to consonant strokes for the representation of pre- 
fixes and suffixes. With the exception of the dot for con 
these signs are not available in such systems for the ex- 
pression of prefixes or suffixes — since the dots and dashes, 
if used for prefixes, might be read as vowels. (Inci- 
dentally as shaded strokes are not good material for pre- 
fixes or suffixes, few consonant signs are available for the 
expression of prefixes or suffixes in shaded, disjoined-vowel 

In joined-vow T el systems the signs for both consonants 
and vowels may be used for the expression of prefixes and 
suffixes, thus obtaining great brevity of form for many 
long words. In Gregg Shorthand, for instance, we use the 
following vowel-signs for both prefixes and suffixes: 

(1) a small circle (4) a large loop 

(2) a large circle (5) an upward hook 

(3) a small loop (6) a downward hook 

(7) a hook on its side 


To get the full significance of this, it should be remem- 
bered that these signs can be used for both prefixes and 
suffixes. In addition, we can use combinations of these, 
joined in their natural order, to form derivatives of both 
prefixes and suffixes, particularly suffixes. 

Joined Prefixes Definitely Indicated. — On account of 
the fact that at the beginning of words certain consonants 
cannot be pronounced with other consonants without an 
intervening vowel, many joined prefixes are possible in a 
joined- vowel system which are not possible in a disjoined- 
vowel system. The fact that there is no vowel between the 
first and second consonant in a joined-vowel system indi- 
cates clearly that the consonant represents a prefix. In 
Gregg Shorthand, for instance, for and fore are expressed 
by /. When the writer sees f-?nost he knows that / is for or 
fore because fm could not be sounded with a vowel between 
them, therefore, the word is read as foremost. So, too, with 
f-noon, for forenoon, and other words in which for or fore 
occur. To take another illustration: con and com are ex- 
pressed by k y and the writer on seeing k-ply knows that the 
form must be comply, because k and p cannot be sounded 
with a vowel: therefore it must be com; and it cannot be 
con because con never occurs before p or b. We might go 
on illustrating this with other joined prefixes. 

This cannot be done in a disjoined-vowel system because 
in practice the vowels are omitted. 

Joined Suffixes Definitely Indicated. — What was said 
about the absence of a vowel in a joined-vowel system in- 
dicating a joined prefix applies equally well to joined suf- 
fixes. When a writer sees breth-l {breathless) he knows 
that the I stands for less, because otherwise there would be 
a vowel-sign between the th and the I; bash-f must be 
bashful for the same reason, achev-m must be achievement, 
and so on with the other suffixes. 


This cannot be done in a disjoined- vowel system because 
the vowels are omitted in practice. 

Vowel Indication. — Someone has remarked in a semi- 
humorous vein that one of the advantages of joined vowels 
is that their omission indicates them! Paradoxical as it 
may seem, the statement is true, when applied under 
definite rules in a joined- vowel system. 

Take, for example, the rule in Gregg Shorthand for the 
omission of u and ovo before n and m. The outline r-nd 
could not be anything but rund or round. The writer knows 
that in that combination r and n cannot be sounded with- 
out an intervening vowel; and he knows, too, that if it 
were rind, rend, rand, rond, ruined, the vowel would appear 
in the outline; therefore, the form must either be rund or 
round — and there is no such word as rund. If the form is 
gr-nd, he knows it must be ground, because the vowel 
would be written in grand, grinned, groaned, grind. Many 
other illustrations could be given. 

Wordsigns Made Distinctive. — The wordsigns, " gram- 
malogues " and " logograms " of the disjoined-vowel 
systems are very unreliable because there is no expression 
to them on account of the omission of the vowels. 

A wordsign or " grammalogue " consisting of one or two 
consonants may stand not only for the particular contrac- 
tion given in the list, but also for many other words in 
which vowels are omitted in rapid writing. 

The "logograms" are mere dots and dashes dependent upon 
shading and upon their position — purely arbitrary con- 
tractions that must be memorized. 

All of this is eliminated in a joined- vowel system. The 
insertion of a vowel — the addition of a facile circle or 
hook requiring hardly any effort — not only clearly dis- 
tinguishes the word forms but gives sound — life — to the 
word, which enables the student to learn the particular 


form without any trouble. As illustrations: ab for about, 
af for after, bo for body, col for collect, ere for credit, 
edu for educate, ev for every, fa for far, fl for /md, /o 
for follow, fu for /wZZ, gi for gwe, irae for immediate, 
loo for foofc, mo for most, na for name, rep for reph/, 
res for respect, ri for rtgrftf, sz for side, shu for sure, tha 
for £/ia£, £o for told, ve for z;en/. The ease with which 
such abbreviations can be learned is obvious, and it is 
also obvious that they are distinctive. 

As Mr. Peter Vogel said, "The number of possible out- 
lines can be greatly multiplied by the use or absence of a 
vowel, and so relieve consonant outlines from congestion 
and make them more definite. " 

Phrase-writing Power Increased. — The phrase-forms 
in a joined- vowel system are much more distinctive than 
in a disjoined- vowel system. In a disjoined- vow r el system 
many word-forms and phrases look alike because in both 
word-forms and phrase-forms the vowels are omitted; 
therefore, the need of distinguishing between word and 
phrase-forms limits the extent to which phrase-writing 
may be used. In a joined- vowel system the absence of 
vowels in most cases indicates that the form is a phrase. 
For example, when a writer of Gregg Shorthand sees f-t-l-b 
— all "unpronounceable consonants" — he knows that it 
is the phrase, for it will be; it cannot possibly be a word. 

Again the insertion of the vowels opens a field of ab- 
breviation in the modification of word-forms for words 
that occur in many common phrases; thus k may be used 
for week because this-k, last-k, past-k next-k are all 
absolutely clear. 

Consistency and Simplicity in Word-Building and 
in Forming Derivatives. — One very great gain from 
the insertion of the vowels is the natural and logical man- 
ner in which derivatives are formed. The necessity for 


distinguishing word-forms consisting of mere consonants 
compels disjoined- vowel systems to depart from logical 
word-building principles in forming derivatives of many 
words. This is not necessary in joined-vowel systems. 
Simplicity of mental effort in word-building contributes 
enormously to speed. 

Elimination of Long Lists of "Words Distin- 
guished." — All disjoined- vowel systems contain long lists 
of "distinguished outlines," words with the same consonants 
but different vowels, in which it is necessary to distinguish 
in some arbitrary w,ay: by a change in the form of the 
word; by "position"; or by the insertion of a vowel. The 
memorizing of these lists is admittedly one of the hardest 
tasks that confronts the student — and the lists must be mas- 
tered or "clashes" of a serious nature will result in trans- 
cribing. The Isaac Pitman "Centenary Instructor" con- 
tains no less than fifteen closely-printed pages of such out- 
lines and the list is not complete ! To take a few examples 
at random: 

Str expresses, satire, star, stare, steer, starry, story, stray, 
Austria, astray, astir, austere, estuary, oyster, Easter. In 
order to distinguish the forms for each of these words dif- 
ferent forms for s, for str, for r are called into use ; there is 
no consistency, no logical word-building principle. 

Prprt represents appropriate, property, propriety, pur- 

Prch represents approach, preach, parch, porch, perch; 

Dtr represents daughter, auditor, debtor, doubter, editor, 
dietary, auditory, deter, detour. 

And so on almost ad infinitum. 

There are very few words in a joined-vowel system that 
need to be distinguished by special forms — the insertion of 
the vowels provide the distinction in almost every case. 

Rapidity in shorthand writing depends upon the prompt- 


ness with which the correct form is conceived or recalled 
by the brain. It is very obvious that if the student has 
to memorize long lists of words that must be distinguished 
arbitrarily — many of such words being written for that 
purpose contrary to rule — there will be hesitancy in recall- 
ing them. When the mind is relieved of that burden, 
through joined vowels, there is an enormous gain in the 
promptness with which the forms are recalled and written. 
I believe that in this is to be found the chief reason why 
so many young writers of Gregg Shorthand, in the speed 
contests conducted by the National Shorthand Reporters' 
Association have surpassed the records made by experi- 
enced Pitmanic reporters of more than double their age and 
experience — records that have never been made, or even ap- 
proached, by Pitmanic writers of their age or experience. 


The shorthand publications, the reports of the proceed- 
ings of the various reporters' associations, and even maga- 
zines and newspapers of general circulation, contain nu- 
merous examples of the absurd mistakes made by stenogra- 
phers in transcribing. In nearly every case the mistakes 
were due to the omission of vowels, to the inability to 
distinguish between light and heavy characters, or between 
large and small hooks; sometimes to a combination of two 
or more of these. By far the most prolific cause of mis- 
readings is the omission of vowels. 

Most of the mistakes quoted in these stories are ludi- 
crous, and it is the custom to attribute them to a lack of 
intelligence on the part of the stenographer. This is not 
fair, as most of the mistakes are due to structural de- 
fects in the system they use. It is impossible to endow a 
young stenographer with the knowledge of language and 
the maturity of judgment, which will enable her to tell 
which word out of a possible five, ten, or even twenty 
words, represented by the same consonantal skeleton, will 
best fit into the context. 

I am going to give some extracts from articles on the 
subject, which I think will be of interest — and a source of 
amusement. An article appeared in the Success magazine 
some years ago under the title, "Some Stenographic Slips," 
which contained some delightful illustrations of the kind 



of mistakes that are made on account of the lack of vowels 
in the outline: 

A certain man in New York City gains his living by his 
pen, in sense, but not in fact; for, while he is a writer for 
periodicals, he does not write. He uses a typewriter in 
duality of being, a girl and a machine. Some years of ex- 
perience with the combination has resulted in his acquiring 
the following: 

1. A sprinkle of hodden gray in an otherwise russet head 
of hair. 

2. An active current account in the pardonable depart- 
ment of the profanity section of the Recording Angel's 

3. An unwholesome joy in ''English as she is born of sten- 
ographic notes." 

4. A peculiar regard for the young woman who advertises 
that she is "rapid, accurate, and educated," in a typewriting 

In the earlier stages of his experience he was amazed, in- 
dignant, irritated, and exasperated, by turns, but in time 
he learned to accept the inevitable. Then began he to 
keep a book, in which were recorded a few, a very few, of the 
mistakes of his amanuenses. He became a philosopher, in 
order to seek the cause of the effect. He found this course 
to be of a double-headed sort, thus: (a) the basic defect 
of all systems of stenography, and (b) the superficial edu- 
cation of the average "graduate" of public or high schools 
linked to the carelessness and ignorance that such an edu- 
cation breeds. 

As to the first, you are probably aware that a stenog- 
rapher, when '"taking" dictation, practically dispenses with 
the signs that stand for vowels, using consonant signs only, 
thus getting a sort of skeleton outline of the word. This is, 
as stated, a defect indeed. The context, together with the 
position in which the word itself is written in relation to the 
ruled lines in the notebook is supposed to enable one to sup- 
ply the missing vowels or make sense of the word. Thus, 
in the word "success," the stenographer would use the con- 
sonantal outline, "S — K — S," writing, as she does, phoneti- 
cally, or by sound. Now, if the sentence you dictated to her 


ran, "The circulation of that popular magazine 'S — K — S/ 
is increasing rapidly," the identity of the needed vowels 
would be apparently obvious, thanks to the context — that 
is, obvious to a stenographer of an intelligent sort. But, as 
"S — K — S" is also the consonantal outline for sikhs, socks, 
seeks, sucks, skies, and so forth, you are very likely to read 
that "that popular magazine 'Socks/ is increasing, etc." 

Now for the extracts from the book, and let it be said that 
they are given precisely as they came to the man, hot from 
the typewriter roller. There has been no pruning, adorning, 
or marring. 

"The far-off summons of the matin bell," was butchered 
thus: "The far of Simmons of the mutton bill." 

"The doctor looked grave as the sick child stirred uneasily 
on her crib," was rendered, "The dear looked grief as the 
sick child stared uneasily at the crab." 

"The beating that Ericsson had given Karl was wasted on 
the latter," was ingeniously mutilated thus: "The batting 
that Ericsson had given Karl was waist on the latter." Karl 
was evidently bent on playing Falstaff. 

Sometimes the apparent sense of the mis-sense of the 
thing is charming. For instance doesn't "The litter that was 
the outcome of the pen, etc.," suggest the old farmyard with 
a bunch of squealing piglets escaping from their ordained 
quarters? Yet the man, when he dictated, "The letter was 
the outcome of the pen of, etc.," had no thought of pork 
within him. Or, again, "His career was to be thenceforward 
as the path of an arrow in the direction of popular reform," 
was made to read, "His career was to be thenceforward as 
the pith of marrow in the duration of popular reform." 

This is one girl's partial record for one day. She left on 
the next, by the way. "Canterbury bells," was metamor- 
phosed into "Canterbury balls," a most unusual print. "I will 
add up your account," came out, "I will do up your ac- 
count," which was enough to alarm any honest debtor. 

"The deed shocked the nation to the heart-core," was 
what was said, and the typewriter evolved, "The dead 
shocked the notion to the hard car." "The site of the man- 
sion" was the intention, and, "The sight of the mason," 
the result. "Bills of lading" were hardly recognizable as 
"balls of loading." "His heart was warmed by the glee," 


was rendered, " His heart was wormed by the glow." " The 
rumor was transient, though," was hardly recognizable as 
u The rammer was trains end through." A rear-end collision 
was evidently in that, girl's mind. 

u As manna fed the Jews," was ingeniously tortured by an- 
other young woman into, " As mamma fed the jays." Yet 
she was a Sunday-school teacher. 

When " The Battle of Waterloo," after going through the 
ordeal of the note-book and the machine, came out as 
" The bottle of water Veau" the man, astonished, determined 
on tracing the mental process by which the stenographer had 
" arrived." This is how she explained herself: "Well, the 
outline of i battle ' and k bottle ' is the same, you know, and I 
just made it out ' bottle '; and, of course, when I saw water 
after that, I was sure that bottle was right — water and bottle, 
you know — and then I came to the ' I ' sign that was after 
the water, and I knew that there was a vowel there and 
I couldn't make it out until I remembered that 'V with ' eau' 
after it is French for water, and you know I learned French 
at High school, and so, as water was the word before, I 
thought for sure that you meant ' 1 ' with the ' oo ' for ' I'eau,' 
the French for water, and so I just wrote it that way." 

" But," said the man, " the sentence reads, ' The nearest 
historic parallel is to be found in the situation that im- 
mediately preceded the battle of Waterloo.' Now in view 
of that sentence, oughtn't your common sense to have told 
you that I couldn't possibly have said ' bottle of water 

" I s'pose so," replied the high-school graduate, who had 
studied French, and that was all she could offer in the way 
of explanation or defense. 

" Kine, knee-deep in fragrant clover," was cryptically ren- 
dered, " Keen no dip in frogrent clever." The perpetrator 
was on the eve of entering one of the most famous women's 
colleges in order to " complete her education." She attempted 
to condone the " keen, etc.," by explaining that she did 
not intend to become a professional stenographer, anyway. 

" Plays, creeps, and laughs, the innocent," crooned the 
man, one day, mouthing the opening lines of some projected 
baby verses. When the typewriter tapped out, u Plays craps, 
and leaves the innocent," he scanned her visage closely. 


He said, " The voice of Dr. Jocelyn was heard calling for 
assistance/' and it came out, " The vice of Dr. Josh Lane 
was hard killing four assistants." 

As dictated it was, " The hollow droning of the mill 
wheel." As typewritten it was, u The hollow draining of 
the mile whale," which is a fairly big contrast, by the way. 

When "But she held Jake too dearly for that, and so — 
passed on," was dictated, and it came out, " But she held 
Jacks, two, drawing for that and so passed, one," would it 
have been unjust to credit the girl at the machine with an 
elementary knowledge of gambling? 

u Dennis, let him have the pass at cut rates," was trans- 
formed into, " Dennis, let him have the pass at cat rates." 
When the man asked her just what she meant by it, she 
frankly answered that she didn't know. 

Sometimes the stenographer adds a word to the language 
that is strikingly reminiscent of " Alice in Wonderland " — 
thus: "A mess of brains spread like brown lace-work over 
the Klep-slap." That it should have been, " A mass of 
briars spread like brown lace over the cliff-slope," is 
neither here nor there. A girl who could evoke u Klep- 
slap " is capable of great things. The man told her so when 
he discharged her, feeling, as he did so, that the universal- 
language people needed her badly. 

The question of international alliances must have been 
humming in the ears of the girl above the keys when she 
caused u On account of this, Ethel's life was marred for all 
time," to appear. " On a Count of those, Ethel's love was 
married for ill times." 

Occasionally a new beast or bird is discovered by the 
typewriter, thus: " The sea-quail was, etc.," the intention 
being, " The sequel was, etc." This was in line with a 
blunder made by the same girl, who avowed that a u gull 
sunk the schooner," instead of " a gale." On another 
occasion she declared that a pair of lovers " hatched up 
a pretty squirrel," instead of their having " patched up a 
petty quarrel." 

Having confessed that once upon a time she had been a 
waitress in a popular restaurant, the reason is clear why 
" Foist the males of the dynasty " was clicked out, " First, 
the meals of the dinnersty." This sounds like a " made-up," 
but it is a fearful fact. 


" The President was heard with acclaim," dictated the 
man. " The present was hard with clam," was what the 
typewriter insisted he had said, as she tearfully hunted 
for her notes. 

In some stenographic systems an arbitrary sign may 
stand for one, two, or even three words. Sometimes, the 
mis-translation of one of these signs leads to funny results. 
For instance, it was toward the end of a love story, and 
the girl was expressing herself as tired of her narrow round 
of duties and wanting an opportunity in life. To this the 
so-far-undeclared youth ought to have replied according to 
the dictation of the man, u Alice, let me be your oppor- 
tunity ! " But the grammalogues for u particular " and 
u opportunity " were the same in the system used by the 
man's stenographer, and so she made Edwin plead, u Alice, 
let me be your particular." 

Because of the droll typewritten truth of the assertion 
that " He is the sawed-off man that one instinctively looks 
down upon," the departure from the original, which was, 
" He is the sort of man one instinctively looks down upon," 
was forgiven. 

During a political campaign the man dictated, " The 
chattering policy of the party is of an amazing sort. Irre- 
sponsible talk seems to have taken the place of concerted 
action, so far as the leaders are concerned." But, accord- 
ing to the typewriter, he had declared, u The chattering 
Pollies of the party is of an amazing sort. Irresponsible 
tick seems to have taken the place of concerted coin, as 
far as the leaders are concerned." He had to admit that 
his employee had unknowingly written much truth. 

A bright-haired, bonnie-faced girl, with a whole stack of 
diplomas and references, held a position with the man for 
one day. Seventy times and seven, more or less, did he for- 
give her blunders during that day; but when, toward eve- 
ning, he spake, " Fate creeps slowly along Times corridors," 
and she made it appear. " Feet creep slyly along Tom's 
car-doors/' it was too much. 

In another instance it was announced in reference to some 
of the stars of a metropolitan dog show, that " The Italian 
greyhound is a dog of high degree." The man read that he 
had avowed that M The Italian greyhound is a Dago of high 


dagger." This, by the way, was an illustrative instance of 
the manner in which the indifferent stenographer blunders 
to a conclusion. Thus, "d — g" is the consonantal outline for 
dog, dago, and several other words. "D — gr" is the outline of 
degree, dagger, and lots of other things. Now, a moment's 
reflection in connection with the context would have given 
the clue to the words that the outlines represented. But she 
had been impressed with the word "Italian" in the sentence. 
Now, "dago" being, in the vernacular, an Italian, "d — g" 
was surely dago, and, as all dagos are supposed to carry dag- 
gers, why, "d — gr" was, of course, "dagger," and there you are. 

In a paper read before the New York State Stenogra- 
phed Association in 1912, Mr. J. D. Strachan (a Pitmanic 
writer) quoted some amusing blunders that have occurred 
in the transcripts of stenographers and reporters on both 
sides of the Atlantic. Here are some of them: 

An official note taker in the law courts of England said 
that he dictated to one of his assistants in the course of 
a speech these words: "Nature is not so kind," and the 
amanuensis turned in the transcript with the passage thus: 
"Common sand is gone." 

In a case a witness said : "The pursuer came to my house 
and spoke to me on a Tuesday," which was reproduced, "The 
pursuer came to my house and spoke to me on the outside." 

A person was described by a witness as "running up very 
heated." This appeared in the notes as "bareheaded." 

The chairman of a well-known railway happened to use 
the phrase, "attacking the traffic of other companies," which 
was rendered, "taking away the traffic of other companies." 

Lord Beaconsfield said upon one occasion, "Where his 
ashes repose." "Where his issue lives," transcribed the 
phonographic but unmemoried reporter. "Your application 
is based on two grounds," was transcribed "bad grounds." 

In dictating to a stenographer a synopsis of a case 
lawyer said: 

"Plaintiff was the owner of a mill dam which supplies 
water with which to run a sawmill. The defendant, a com- 


peting sawmill owner, had threatened to cut the water from 
plaintiff's mill dam and thus prevent him from sawing logs 
with which to fill a certain order. Held, that an injunction 
would lie." 

This is the way it was transcribed: 

"Plaintiff was the owner of a mule team which sup- 
plies power with which to run a sawmill. The defendant, 
a competing sawmill owner, had threatened to cut the 
halters from plaintiff's mule team and thus prevent him from 
sawing logs with which to fill a certain order. Held, that 
an injunction would lie." 

The stenographer explained that the word signs for mill 
dam and mule team were similar, and, having injected the 
mule team into the case, she was unable to understand 
how cutting the water off from the mule team would inter- 
fere with the running of the mules, so she concluded that in- 
stead of cutting the water, it should be cutting the halters. 

In dictating a brief a lawyer referred to "an anecdote." 
The stenographer translated it into "a nannygoat," perhaps 
improving and certainly enlivening the text. 

In Texas the order of the probate court appointing an 
administrator (or administratrix, as the case may be) usually 
reads: "It is ordered that upon the applicant. John Doe, 
giving bond and taking the oath prescribed by law, that 
letters testamentary- or of administration issue," etc. A very 
dignified, but somewhat bashful lawyer, who was a some- 
what elderly bachelor, had for a client a wealthy and re- 
cently bereaved widow. He also had an inexperienced sten- 
ographer. The order of the court appointing his client ad- 
ministratrix of her husband's estate had been dictated and 
was lying on the lawyer's desk, he not having had time to 
look it over. The client entered, and, seeing that the paper 
concerned her business, picked it up and glanced over it. 
The attorney, who had been occupied with some papers, 
turned to her just in time to see her hastily lay the paper 
down, while an unmistakable blush suffused her face, and 
she regarded him with a look of mingled confusion and 
indignation. Completely mystified, he picked up the offend- 
ing instrument and to his horror read that: "It is ordered 


by the court that upon the applicant, Mrs. Blank, giving 
bond and taking a bath prescribed by law, letters of ad- 
ministration shall issue." 

A lawyer dictated a notice, in a separate maintenance case, 
that he would move the court for a rule on defendant to 
pay the plaintiff ''temporary alimony and suit money ." As 
the notice came from the machine it read, "Temporary 
alimony and soup money." 

In the Stenographer, Mr. P. J. Sweeney gave the follow- 

"Our pumps are recommended as being absolutely use- 
less (noiseless)." 

"In regard to the Kansas City (capacity) of the pump." 

"We cannot stand whipping (consistently ship) the goods 
except C. O. D." 

"We can loan to you upon no (any) terms that will suit 

"Soul device (sole devisee) under the last will and testa- 
ment of Thomas White." 

Some time ago Mr. E. A. Cope gave an interesting ac- 
count of the errors made in transcribing which have come 
under his notice as shorthand examiner for the Society of 

Proper names are troublesome to beginners. Thompson 
has been rendered Adamson, Gauntlet transcribed Connolly, 
Globe transformed to Club, and a letter dictated to Mr. 
Warner, addressed by the dictatee to Mr. Marshall. 

In examining papers, one is sometimes struck by the cir- 
cumstance that several candidates stumble over the same 
word, but stumble in different directions. Three transcripts 
handed in at a speed examination were found to contain 
three different blunders over the simple word "pledges." 
The phrase dictated was, "One of the pledges." It was vari- 
ously transcribed, "One of the subjects," "One of the 
speeches," "One of the privileges." The word "tapped" was 
similarly favored with three different renderings, all of them 


wrong. One competitor made it "tacked," another "talked," 
and a third "attacked." Two scribes misread the word "pro- 
moted." One made it "prompted" and the other turned it 
into "permitted." The word "events" was fatal to two more. 
One transcribed it "visions," and the other made "evidence" 
of it. 

Here are a few specimens taken at random from faulty 
transcripts: Salutation was transcribed salvation; issue, as 
Ireland; ideas, as eye-sights; condemns, as admits; minutes, 
as months; affection, as conviction; sober, as spirit; shorter, 
as surer; praising, as personal; solution, as consolation; dis- 
solve as "do something"; animated as vaunted; tended, as 
contended; played, as completed; right, as ready; amount, 
as account; settlement, as statement; approach, as preach; 
notion, as information; employed, as liable. 

Hasty writing and imperfection of form are responsible for 
the conversion of "they were equal to" into "they would 
stock to"; "see nothing for them except extinction" got 
twisted into "I say nothing, for they expect extinction." 
The phrase "back him up" looked libelous in its transcribed 
form, "take me up." And the competitor who took down 
"I appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober" must have 
been in some confusion as to Greek and Hebrew history, 
when he wrote deliberately "appeal from Peter drunk to 
Peter sober." 

In a paper on "Shorthand and English," read before the 
Incorporated Phonographic Society, London, Mr. J. E. 
McLachlan quoted many errors in the transcription of a 
simple passage which was dictated at an examination of 
shorthand teachers: 

"Permits and even promotes" was transcribed "permits and 
even permits." "The means of production," an expres- 
sion that had been familiar through all the years since the 
time of Mill, was frequently transcribed "mines of pro- 
duction." "Excess in the hands of a small class" was trans- 
cribed in one instance "chaos in the hands," etc., and in an- 
other "access," etc. "Positive privation" was variously 
transcribed — once as "paucity of provision"; "privation" ap- 


peared also as "profession." "Breeding" in the expression, 
"the breeding of degenerate hordes" was transcribed "brood- 
ing" and "breading." "Feudalism" was transcribed as "fatal- 

The report says that Mr. McLachlan "reminded his hearers 
that the candidates were not students, but candidates for 
the teachers' diploma" and that the test was the easiest one 

This is taken from an address by Mr. J. N. Kimball to 
a class of shorthand teachers: 

When I dictate something about the "tales of the monks 
of ye olden time," I don't like to find that I am mistaken and 
that it was monkeys which had the tails, not the monks, just 
because the outlines are alike. 

And when I write to some bereaved friends and say 
things which I trust will "soften the force of the blow," I 
mildly expostulate when I find myself telling them that 
"time will soften the fires of the below." And if I have oc- 
casion to rise in my wrath and tell some chap that he is "no 
account," it hurts my pride to find that I have only in- 
timated that he is "knock-kneed." 

Anyone who has a knowledge of the Pitmanic systems 
will recognize the reason for these errors. In nearly every 
case the error ivas due to the omission of the vowels, to 
the inability to distinguish between light and heavy char- 
acters or between large and small hooks. 


The vicious and embarrassing principle of position. 

— Thomas Anderson 

Like "shading," position writing is destructive to line- 
ality and to phrase writing, and is a constant source of em- 
barrassment if applied, and of illegibility, if neglected. 

— Preface to the first edition of Light-Line Phonography 

The expedient of writing words in several different po- 
sitions in relation to the line of writing is a very old one, 
and one that has been used for almost every conceivable 
purpose. It has been used for doubling letters, for indicat- 
ing omissions of vowels or consonants and as a means of 
distinction between word forms. 

"Position" an Old Expedient. — In a paper read before 
the Shorthand Society, London, in 1885, Mr. Edward Poek- 
nell described in an interesting way the various purposes 
for which position writing had been applied in systems 
since the beginning of alphabetic shorthand: 

I have already referred to "position" being used for vowel- 
dots and "vowel-mode," and in some instances for differ- 
entiating consonant characters of and in the alphabet. For 
the former purposes it dates back to the first alphabetical 
system., that of John Willis (1602). "Position" has been 
so generally used for various purposes that we may take 
it that it has not been neglected by any author, as a princi- 
ple, more or less to be used as a contracting method, es- 
pecially for logograms and terminations. The principle 
was adopted more or less in all the early systems. Lyle 



(1762) used three positions (above, on and below the line,) 
and the principle occurs in various systems, but it is worthy 
of note that Mavor (1795) discarded the use of this prin- 
ciple for words, but stated specifically that had it not been 
for burdening the memory he would have made use of 
three positions in reference to the line for logograms. Rid- 
path (1687) indicated omitted words by position in relation to 
each other — viz., above or below, or Jar from, or near to, the 
preceding word. Thus he indicated the presence of "to," 
"of," "with," "by," "from," "for,"* without writing the words. 
Byrom used three positions for his horizontal stroke 5 to 
get the vowel before it, as in, "as," "is," and "us"; but his 
stickling for lineality prevented the application of "po- 
sition" to any but the horizontal stroke. 

"Position" Condemned by Isaac Pitman. — It is not 
generally known that Isaac Pitman rejected position- writ- 
ing in the first editions of his system and condemned it 
unsparingly. Writing about some of the earlier systems, he 

Systems of shorthand that depend for their existence 
upon staves, like music, or even on a single line on which 
the letters have a three-fold power of expressing different 
words above, on, or below the line are certainly practicable, 
but they are not practical. 

But as time went on Mr. Pitman found that, on account 
of the omission of vowels in his system in practical writing, 
many words containing the same consonants but different 
vowels, were misread. He, therefore, reluctantly intro- 
duced position-writing. 

In a previous chapter I quoted the statement of Mr. Gra- 
ham that " Mr. Pitman appropriated from Harding the plan 
of writing words in three different positions, to imply 
first-position, second-position, or third-position vowels. 
See Harding's book (1830) , page 24, last paragraph but one." 

That position- writing has some value in a disjoined- 


vowel system for the purpose for which it is used need not 
be disputed. It is merely a crutch to bolster up an or- 
ganic weakness in the structure of the system, and as a 
crutch it is useful, although its usefulness is greatly ex- 
aggerated by some of its advocates. To hear some of 
them talk about it one would imagine that the plac- 
ing of an outline in a certain position indicated pre- 
cisely what the omitted vowel was and where it occurred 
in the word. Put under the acid test of facts this claim 
vanishes. There are in Pitman's Shorthand twelve vowels 
and four diphthongs ; these are supposed to be expressed by 
three positions; that is to say, about five for each position. 
How much of definiteness is there in that? That is not all, 
because position does not indicate where the vowel occurs 
in the outline. In short, position-writing, if observed, merely 
indicates that one of five vowels or diphthongs occurs some- 
where in the outline; it does not tell what the vowel or diph- 
thong is nor where it occurs. 

Condemned by Others. — Candid Pitman writers and 
teachers acknowledge that position-writing is a much over- 
rated expedient. In a discussion at a meeting of the Man- 
chester District of the Incorporated Society of Shorthand 
Teachers about four years ago, Mr. Sandiford, a well-known 
and accomplished teacher of Pitman's Shorthand, said: 

Mr. Hallam has dwelt on the point that vocalization 
in Pitman is now much less scientific than it used to 
be, that it is more difficult than ever to decipher a word, 
that more is thrown upon position writing than ever 
before, and that position-writing in itself is one of the 
most dangerous expedients you can possibly have in any 
system of shorthand. 

That is my conclusion, too. It is, it seems to me, 
a mistake on the part of Pitmanites to labor the ques- 
tion of the positional representation of vowels. After 
all, position tells you neither what the vowel is, where 


it is, in what part of the word it occurs, whether it is 
before a consonant or after a consonant, nor supposing 
it is, say, a first-place vowel, which particular first-place 
vowel or diphthong it is. In point of fact, if you try to de- 
cipher an outline apart from context, you may have to 
run through a dozen words before you hit upon the correct 

In a recent issue of the Stenographer and Phonographic 
World, Mr. W. J. Burrows said: 

When words are written in position there is far too much 
guesswork. Only one vowel can thus be indicated, and the 
reader has at least three guesses as to its place in the word, 
viz., initial, middle, or end. This means eighteen guesses as 
to the nature or whereabouts of — what? the principal vowel! 
As to what happens to be the principal vowel there is nearly 
as much uncertainty in far too many cases. 

In discussing methods of expressing vowels, Mr. Edward 
Pocknell, the author of "Legible Shorthand," who used 
Pitman's Shorthand for over thirty years as a professional 
reporter in London, said: 

Is it not a hundred times more difficult to remember 
on the spur of the moment whether a phonographic ar- 
bitrary form should be placed above, on, or through the 
line, according to the vowel sound, often obscure? 

A talented Boston reporter, Mr. Bates Torrey, said: 

Although position is an ingenious device, and in the 
strictness of its phonetic application conducive to legibility 
of writing, yet at times it falls short of the purpose for 
which it was designed — simply because so many words 
have the same vocal elements. Note the unchanged 
positions called for in the words knee, nigh, gnaw; in like, 
leak, lock, ilk, lick — all being same-position sounds. 


Mr. David Wolfe Brown, in his book, "The Factors of 
Shorthand Speed," in detailing the difficulties which stu- 
dents encounter, said: 

If thus unskilled as to the requirements of the reporting 
style, he must not only think out the whole outline before 
starting to write it, but with the outline mentally sus- 
pended, must decide which of perhaps half-a-dozen vowels 
(heard possibly none too distinctly) is the one which should 
determine the ''reporting position" of the outline. ... I 
ask them to write some word, not very difficult, but which 
they have never written before; and they hesitate painfully. 
The pen seems unwilling or unable to touch the paper. 
Mind and hand appear paralyzed. "What boggles you?" 
I ask; and they reply, "Oh, I can write the outline but I 
am trying to think of the position!" This is often their 
pitiable plight after they have been writing shorthand for 
months and months! 

In another place he describes the "indication" of the vow- 
els by position as "generally vague, unsuggestive, and prac- 
tically useless." 

Thus an outline which, ignoring artificial rules of 
"position" is so vocalized as to express the essential vowel, 
will often be written in less time than an unvocalized out- 
line carefully placed in "position," which, theoretically, is 
supposed to "indicate" the omitted vowel, but whose "in- 
dication" is, for an unfamiliar word (such as a proper 
name), generally vague, unsuggestive, and practically useless. 

" Undoubtedly a Hindrance." — Even that ever-loyal 
devotee of Phonography, Mr. E. A. Cope, in a discussion be- 
fore the Shorthand Society, is thus reported: "Mr. Cope's 
experience led him to wish for the abolition of position as 
much as possible. It was undoubtedly a hindrance." 
(Shorthand, Volume L, Page 114.) 

Probably there is no higher authority on rapid shorthand 


writing among Pitman writers in England than Mr. W. 
McDougall. In a letter published in Commercial Education 
for October 20, 1915, Mr. McDougall said: 

Besides the difficulty in the Phonographic outlines them- 
selves, my own experience is that in many cases where the 
word allows of position-writing at moderate speeds, at the 
highest speeds this position-writing must go by the board. 
It is practicable only in the case of the shorter words where 
the rule serves to distinguish between different words rep- 
resented by the consonantal outline Applied to 

outlines which represent more words than one, it is doubtless 
helpful in the reading of the notes, but beyond this it be- 
comes both impracticable and unnecessary, and the speed as- 
pirant would do well to ignore the innovation or he will find 
himself hindered rather than helped. 

The editor of Commercial Educationmakes this comment: 

We are quite in agreement with our correspondent. . . . 
Some theorists seem to look upon position-writing as a vir- 
tue in itself instead of being, as it undoubtedly is, only a 
necessary makeshift for, distinguishing words that cannot be 
otherwise distinguished. 

The "Appreciable" Losses. — The Phonographic Maga- 
zine (the organ of the Benn Pitman system) for Decem- 
ber, 1912, in an answer to a correspondent, makes a very 
significant statement about the time lost in placing words 
" in position. " After stating that certain words belong to 
certain positions — above, on, or through the line — the editor 

It is, however, unnecessary to write these long outlines in 
position, as the bare outline of each written on the line is 
sufficient for all purposes of legibility whenever the word 
appears in context, i. e., sentences. And there is an es- 
pecial disadvantage in doing the unnecessary in shorthand. 
The time and effort consumed is infinitesimal in a single 


instance, but the shorthand reporter writes words by the 
hundreds of thousands and by the millions, and the sum of 
these infinitesimal losses soon becomes very appreciable. In 
teaching, therefore (which means, in the cultivation of 
working habits in the learner), these outlines written un- 
necessarily in position should be treated as errors, and the 
student should be admonished not to waste time in doing 
the unnecessary. 

That is to say: When the student places the forms in 
the correct position, the words should be treated as errors, 
if, in the judgment oj the teacher, it is unnecessary to 
place them in position. Beautifully definite, is it not? 

Most significant is the admission that there is a loss of 
time and effort in placing the words in position, and that 
in continuous writing the sum of these infinitesimal losses 
soon becomes appreciable. Yet we have heard people 
make the absurd assertion that there is no loss of time 
in placing words above, through, or below the line. 

The statement of the Phonographic Magazine that "out- 
lines written unnecessarily in position should be treated 
as errors" is but another illustration of the absurdities and 
inconsistencies of the old-time systems of shorthand. The 
student has to spend many tedious hours in learning to do 
things one way, only to be told that if he does it that way 
he may be penalized for errors. In other words, to be right 
is to be wrong. 

"Position" Means Loss of Time and Effort. — I could 
quote volumes of similar expressions from well-known 
teachers and reporters on both sides of the Atlantic, but 
there is no need to do so. Every candid teacher and writer 
will acknowledge that position-writing is one of the greatest 
obstacles to the attainment of speed. There is mental ef- 
fort in thinking ahead about the position in which words 
should be placed; there is physical effort in dodging from 


one position to another, instead of proceeding continuously 
along the line, of writing. As the distinguished congres- 
sional reporter, David Wolfe Brown, said: "The more often 
you depart from the line of writing, the greater the labor 
for the hand, and the less the speed." Henry Richter, for- 
mer President of the Shorthand Society, London, said: "Po- 
sition writing, if used to a great extent, requires a constant 
jumping about, and thus wastes valuable time, besides un- 
duly tiring both hand and brain." 

Not only is position- writing a tax on the memory and a 
constant source of hesitation, but the changing of the po- 
sition of the hand in placing the words — now above, now 
below, now on the line — interferes with both speed and 

The use of " position " is an obstacle to easy, natural and 
legible phrase-writing, for when the words are joined to 
one another without lifting the pen some of them must 
be written out of position. The result is that those words 
out of position lose their identity, so far as the vowels are 
concerned. As sometimes as many as twenty words may 
be written by the same sign in disjoined- vowel systems, 
some idea of the ensuing confusion may be gleaned. 

There is no position-writing in longhand, and if long- 
hand is to be our standard for natural writing, then po- 
sition-writing is inadmissible. 

As our system is free from "position rules," the writing 
in it flows steadily onward without loss of momentum, and 
with the hand always in the right place to begin the next 
word without any ineffectual "air-traveling" from the end 
of one outline to the beginning of the next one. Good 
phrase-forms, too, are not destroyed as they are in other 
systems where certain words in the phrase have to be 
placed above or below the line — or treated as "excep- 


Speed in writing depends [among other things] upon the 
use of forms favoring lineality of writing. 

— Andrew J. Graham 

The dictionary defines "lineal" as "in a direct line. 
Lineality in shorthand writing is understood to mean writ- 
ing that keeps to the line instead of running in a downward 
or in an upward direction. It is obvious that if the writ- 
ing descends below the line of writing, or shoots upward, 
there is an ineffectual movement in getting back to the line. 
The great English philosopher, Herbert Spencer, in discuss- 
ing shorthand systems, described such ineffectual efforts as 
the "unregistered movements of the pen." 

Value of Continuous Movement. — In comparing 
shorthand systems the importance of lineality — the contin- 
uous movement of the hand along the line — is too often 
overlooked; and yet it is a factor of paramount impor- 
tance. When comparing systems it is a good plan to note 
how many characters end beneath the line; that is, how 
many " unregistered movements of the pen " there are 
between the shorthand forms. 

When properly understood, this matter of lineality 
makes clear some otherwise inexplicable events in short- 
hand history. We constantly see references to the extraor- 
dinary vitality of the systems of Gurney and Taylor — 
the former having been in existence nearly two centuries, 
and the latter considerably more than a century. The ex- 



planation of the longevity of these old systems is to be found 
in the fact that they are free from shading and position 
writing; consequently the authors were able to select lineal, 
easy characters for the most frequent letters. The writing 
although lengthy, is more like a free, onward running 
script — and therefore rapid. 

In a discussion of shorthand before the Central Com- 
mercial Teachers' Association, Mr. A. C. Van Sant, a Pit- 
manic writer, said: 

I was trained to the belief that the "Pitmanic" system 
was the only system by which rapid note-making could be 
done. I went to Washington in 1863, as clerk of the Com- 
mittee of the District of Columbia and I had a position 
assigned to me among the gallery reporters. I looked down 
and saw one man whose hand was moving across the page in 
apparently almost direct lines with wonderful rapidity, 
turning off a sheet every few moments. I wondered what 
kind of writing he was doing. I went down afterwards and 
made myself known, and asked him what system he wrote. 
He replied, "the Gurney." "Is that rapid enough for con- 
gressional reporting?" "Why," he said, "it is the most 
rapid system in the world." I said, "How is it with regard to 
accuracy?" "It is the most accurate system in the world," 
he said. Here was an upsetting of my views at once. . . . 
Afterwards I was employed on the Chicago Tribune, and in 
a big political meeting with a man who wrote the same 
system; three of them reported the political speeches, and 
when anyone wanted anything he was the man who made 
the quickest answer. 

In a letter about shorthand, which appeared in the Chi- 
cago Daily News, an "ex-court reporter of twenty-five 
years 7 experience" urged the importance of simplicity of 
form. "Speed," he said, "comes w T hen the forms for the 
words flow from the brain to the fingers in an instan- 
taneous vibration without effort or pause." Then he went 
on to say: 


The Gurney system gives outlines at least as extended 
as in the Pitman; yet the Gurney men still do most of the 
work in English Parliamentary Committees; and in 1900 two 
of the official reporters in New York courts, deservedly 
famed for swiftness and accuracy, were Gurney men. Of 
course, the Gurney system is a running script, which the 
Pitman is not, and as to how far that equalizes matters 
is pure guesswork. . . . 

The "Unregistered Movements. " — If the writing is 
of such a character that it frequently leaves the hand be- 
low the line at the end of a word or phrase, there is an 
ineffectual movement in getting back to the line, or to the 
beginning of the next word. In many systems, for ex- 
ample, the common letters, t and d, are represented by 
downward characters, and as these letters are of very fre- 
quent occurrence, the result is a general downward ten- 
dency to the writing. To counteract this defect, such 
systems resort to other methods of expressing these letters, 
which result in different ways of writing words and con- 
sequently, in much hesitancy in execution. 

Why Pitmanic Shorthand Straggles Downward. — 
When such common letters as t, d, n, m, r, I, are given 
a horizontal, onward direction, the result is a very flowing, 
lineal movement, conducive to great facility of execution. 
But, naturally, this may sometimes result in the writing 
extending along the line and thus occupying more space, 
although written with much less effort and with even fewer 
strokes than systems requiring a constant up-and-down or 
zigzag motion. 

In his keen, analytical criticism of Pitman's Shorthand, 
Herbert Spencer said, among other things: 

It does not keep to the line. This is an evil common to all 
shorthand hitherto published — an evil productive not only of 
inelegance, but of great inconvenience, and one which must 


seriously militate against the general adoption of any method 
of writing which does not avoid it. 

In another place he criticizes the Pitman method of vo- 
calization, because of "the motions of the hand in going 
backward and forward to vocalize," and he terms these 
"the unregistered movements of the pencil." The same 
reasoning applies to unregistered movements from the end 
of one word to the beginning of the next. 

David Wolfe Brown, in commenting on Mr. Spencer's 
views, said: 

Whatever else we may think of Herbert Spencer as a short- 
hand critic, there is at least one of his remarks that should 
give us food for serious reflection. It is undoubtedly true 
that "the unregistered movements" — those in which the pen 
or pencil moves over the paper without touching it — consume 
an equal amount of time with similar movements that leave 
visible signs behind them. This being true, one of the most 
obvious of shorthand lessons is to spend as little time as 
possible in "unregistered movements" — in executing un- 
written strokes — in writing "in the air.'' 

Among the suggestions made by Mr. Brown for reduc- 
ing "the unwritten stroke" to a minimum, is this: 

By avoiding all unnecessary carrying of the pen or pencil 
above or below the normal line of writing. 

Andrew J. Graham, in stating the "requirements of 
speed," has well urged "the use of forms favoring lineality 
of writing." 

A "Vicious Principle." — There is almost a pathetic 
note in Mr. Brown's concluding remarks: 

Most serious is the loss suffered by the shorthand writer 
who needlessly resorts to "position," simply because "the 
accented vowel" happens to be this or that or the other. 

Position for the sake of distinction between words of 
similar outline, I believe in; position for the sake of "indi- 


eating the accented vowel" (which is never thereby "indi- 
cated" in any sense of the term) I deplore. If this effort 
to give to every shorthand outline a position with reference 
to the ''accented vowel" is to go on unchecked. I expect to 
see rapid stenographic writers become rarer and rarer, 
through the manual loss by sacrifice of lineality, and the 
mental loss by undertaking to determine, with reference to 
every written outline, a generally needless question as to 
''the accented vowel." 

The foremost exponent of Pitman's Shorthand among 
reporters in England for more than half a century was Mr. 
Thomas Allen Reed. In his "Leaves from My Note-Book" 
he expressed the opinion that "unless a junction is easy 
and flowing, no time is saved;" and then he went on to say, 
"I have met combinations like this (illustrating), written 
deliberately and in cold blood." The phrase Mr. Reed 
gave as an illustration represented, "I think it was said 
that there would be such" — a phrase-form that required 
no less than ten downward movements! Mr. Reed then 
made this significant comment: "It is indeed awkward 
to have to draw the hand so far downwards and then to 
make a sudden dash upwards to regain your position on 
the line!" 

In their "Reporter's Companion," Benn Pitman and 
Jerome B- Howard make this explicit statement: 

Departing widely from the line of writing tends to disturb 
the even movement of the reporter's hand, producing a 
"jerk," or momentary loss of poise in the effort to regain 
the line-position. Such a disturbance is dangerous to the 
writer who is following a rapid speaker, and may, at a 
critical moment, lead to an actual breakdown in the con- 
tinuity of the report. 

Edward Pocknell, author of "Legible Shorthand " (a 
geometric system), stated that among the features of "a 
good shorthand" were the following: 


Forward strokes or curves should preponderate in the 
writing; perpendicular strokes should be used as infre- 
quently as possible, and backward strokes should not be 
too prominent. . . . 

The effect of position-writing on lineaiity may be con- 
sidered a separate topic. As I have discussed position- 
writing in a previous article, it is mentioned here merely 
as an element that is destructive to lineaiity. The loss of 
time caused by placing words in "position" cannot be 
measured merely by the distance traveled by the hand in 
making the change from one position to another, though 
that is great in itself. There is still greater loss in the 
hesitancy and indecision involved in recalling not only the 
outline, but the position in which it should be placed. To 
place a word in position requires "thinking ahead"; that is, 
the writer cannot begin an outline until he has decided 
where it should be placed in relation to the line of writing. 

One of the most thoughtful discussions of this phase of 
shorthand is the following from the pen of Mr. D. Kimball: 

In writing, the hand must move from left to right across 
the page. One need do but little practice upon lines in 
different directions to show him that those made horizontally 
or inclined in a forward direction, so as to come easily with 
this forward movement, are the most easily made; and that 
those made across that direction (perpendicular) are the 
most difficult, and if repeated in the same word, as is often 
the case, would result in outlines for words that are imprac- 
ticable because of their running down through several lines. 
It needs no argument to show anyone that the best results 
in both writing and reading, as well as in the economy of 
space, are secured when the writing follows its appropriate 
line closely. This simple and self-evident proposition fur- 
nishes the key to the proper selection of the simple lines 
to represent the sounds: the most frequently occurring sounds 
should be represented by those characters which are most 
easily made, and which will keep the writing on or close to 
the line. It is hardly probable that the inventor of Phonog- 


raphy understood this; for if he had, we give him the credit 
to believe he would not have knowingly endangered the 
whole fabric he was endeavoring to create. 

The comparatively frequent sounds of t, d, s, z, have in 
Phonography perpendicular letters to represent them, and 
consequently render the writing more difficult and unman- 
ageable. . . . The difficulty is there, inherent in the system, 
and the authors of Pitmanic systems are for that reason 
compelled to resort to all sorts of complications to get any- 
thing like manageable outlines for words. . . . 

This tendency to a perpendicular direction taken by the 
phonographic consonants necessitates the frequent raising of 
the pen to come back to the line of writing, resulting in much 
waste of time and movement. This is a grave defect in the 
system, and one which seriously affects speed. 

In a series of scholarly and highly-analytic articles on 
"The Art of Phrasing/ 7 which were published in The 
Stenographer and Phonographic World, in 1919, Prof. 
A. H. Codington (who is a Pitmanic writer) discussed the 
subject of lineality as follows: 

The easiest natural method of writing is upon or close to 
the line. As only two to four vertical or sloping stroke- 
lengths can occupy the space between two lines of writing 
(depending upon the shorthand system and the size of the 
writer's notes) any ascent or descent of more than two or 
two-and-a-half strokes below or above the line of writing is 
likely to interfere with the writing on the line above or 
below. Long ascents or descents cramp the hand and impair 
speed and legibility. Lineality avoids the intermixing of 
outlines and the delays in dodging outlines which ascend or 
descend too far, and should control good phrasing. The 
superior lineality of Gregg Shorthand to that of Pitmanic 
and others, through its horizontals, slopes, and lack of down- 
ward perpendiculars, and its consequent adaptability to easy, 
sweeping phrases along the line of writing, is one of its 
strongest points. 

A Great Problem. — Few people have any idea what 
a problem lineality has been to the shorthand constructor; 


few people, indeed, realize its importance as a speed factor 
in shorthand until their attention is called to it. In speak- 
ing of it before the Shorthand Society, London, a profes- 
sional reporter, Mr. Edward Pocknell, author of Pocknell's 
"Legible Shorthand/' said: "One of the greatest difficul- 
ties of the shorthand constructor is to find signs that will 
produce lineal writing without having recourse to contrac- 
tions and exceptions to rules." 

Mr. Pocknell was right. In my earlier efforts at short- 
hand construction some of the outlines shot away towards 
the top of the notebook, while others seemed determined 
to reach the bottom of the page. 

Numerous familiar expedients suggested themselves — ex- 
pedients that tempted me to depart from my ideals — such 
as alternative forms for certain letters. I did not succeed 
in reaching my ideal in those early efforts; but in construct- 
ing "Light-Line," I gradually worked towards the solution 
through the analysis of the frequency of the various let- 
ters and particularly, of the various combinations of letters. 
How this was accomplished will be fully explained when 
I come to the story of the construction of the alphabet. I 
believe that an examination of any page of writing in our 
system will show a very much smaller proportion of words 
ending below or above the line than in any other 
system, past or present. If you place a page of the notes 
alongside a page of notes in any other system, you will 
notice that in our system a very large percentage of 
the words and phrases end on the line, so that the 
hand is in position to begin the next word; whereas 
in other systems a very large percentage of the forms 
end beneath the line of writing, and require an upward 
jump of the hand to get in position for the next word. This 
involves what has been called "air travelling, " that is to 
say, movements which have no value or significance, as 


the time consumed in moving from one position to another 
is absolutely lost so far as practical writing is concerned. 1 

1 Since this was written the "Committee on Shorthand Standards" 
of the New York State Shorthand Reporters' Association, 1918, has 
declared that: 

"Assignment of signs to sounds should give a factor of (hori- 
zontal) lineality of not less than 75 per cent." 

The report then states: 

"This factor of lineality varies for well-known shorthands from just 
under 50 per cent for most Pitmanic to just over 90 per cent for 



The development of Phonography affords another illustra- 
tion of the general rule that the simplest, most convenient, 
and most reasonable way of doing anything is usually the 
last to come, but when the right thing is accepted, it seems 
amazing that the inferior and imperfect one could have 
been tolerated, much less loved and tenaciously adhered to. 

— Benn Pitman 

You will have noticed that in the preceding chapters I 
have discussed broad, basic principles only. An under- 
standing of the value, and of the relative importance of 
these basic principles, is a necessary preliminary to an 
explanation of the manner in which I attempted to con- 
struct a system in harmony with them. 

I have shown by numerous quotations that each of these 
principles has been advocated or approved by prominent 
authors, teachers, or expert writers, of the older systems. 
Possibly the quotations with which the previous articles 
have been interspersed have been so numerous as to be 
wearisome to some readers. Nevertheless, it was with great 
reluctance that I omitted many other quotations from simi- 
lar sources on almost every topic contained in the series. 
If the articles seem to have been unduly embellished with 
these quotations from authors and writers of other systems, 
I feel sure you will appreciate what a strong temptation 
I resisted in refraining from giving quotations from teach- 



ers and writers of our system. What splendid articles and 
letters I could have quoted from that source, and particu- 
larly from those who had previously written or taught other 
systems ! 

A Recapitulation. — Let me refresh your memory at this 
point by a brief recapitulation of the seven great basic 
principles, which were discussed in previous articles: 

1. Based on the ellipse or oval — on the slope of long- 

2. Curvilinear motion 

3. Elimination of obtuse angles by natural blending of 

4. Joined vowels 

5. One thickness — elimination of shading 

6. One position — elimination of "position writing " 

7. Lineality — the easy, continuous flow of the writing 
along the line 

All these principles are in accordance with the teaching 
and practice of ordinary writing; all of them are natural 
writing principles. Gregg Shorthand was the first system 
in which they had all been incorporated. 

Anderson's "Five Axioms. " — Mr. Thomas Anderson, 
author of "The History of Shorthand," in an address on 
"The True Theory of Shorthand/' delivered before the 
Shorthand Society, London, March 7, 1882 (six years 
prior to the publication of "Light-Line Phonography") 

I shall not limit myself to a dry dissertation on the de- 
fects of the existing systems or an exposition of the illogical 
basis' on which they repose ; . . . but it is my design to pro- 
pound, to illustrate, and to defend, what, it appears to me, 
are the necessary and indispensable conditions which regu- 
late and apparently restrain the attainment of excellence in 


the framing and accomplishment of any modern system of 
shorthand. . . . 

Let me, gentlemen, invite your attention to the follow- 
ing proposition, which I venture to submit to your consider- 
ation in the light of Shorthand Axioms. They are these: 

First. The alphabet of a good shorthand system must in- 
elude independent characters for the vowels, which charac- 
ters must be adapted for writing in union with the forms for 
the consonants ; in other words, every letter of the common 
alphabet must have a special and distinctive shorthand 

Second. The characters of a good shorthand system must 
be all written on the one slope. 

Third. In a good shorthand system no distinction of 
letters made thick from letters made thin is admissible. 

Fourth. In a good shorthand system there must be only 
one line of writing. 

Fifth. The rules of abbreviation in a good system of 
shorthand must be few, comprehensive, and sure. 

Permit me to point out that these five traits, according 
to the presence or absence of which I respectfully ask that 
we should assess the value of any and all shorthand — these 
five traits, I say, although they have never been found 
combined in any single system, have yet been recognized 
separately by various authors, and some of them by one 
and others by another. 

It will be seen that all of these "Five Traits" are to be 
found in our system. 

Important Statement. — The Shorthand Society, Lon- 
don, was established in 1881, for "The study of the science 
and literature of shorthand, and the investigation and dis- 
cussion of the principles which should govern the con- 
struction of a system of shorthand adapted, if possible, 
for general use." 

As a result of ten years of "investigation and discussion," 
the Society made an announcement in the magazine Short- 
hand, the official organ of the Society, as follows: 


Whilst the Society by its present rules is prevented from 
recording collectively by resolution any authoritative recog- 
nition of the principles to be followed by future construc- 
tors of systems, the Council think it desirable to endeavor 
in a few words to summarize the result of the discussions 
with regard to some important points in the construction 
of shorthand systems. 

A preference on the part of the majority of members has 
undoubtedly been shown for the imitation of the longhand 
form of characters, as distinguished from what are usually 
called geometric signs. It has also been recognized that 
legibility is enhanced by writing connected vowels or im- 
plying them in the outlines. 

Some Minor Principles or Expedients. — There are 
a number of other expedients or principles, common to 
many of the older systems, which are not to be found in 
our system. In passing, I shall mention only three of them. 

Hooks Turned Backward. — In the older systems there 
are many hooks turned backioard, such as the n hook in 
Pitman's Shorthand and the large hook for shun in many 
joinings. Turning the hand backward is contrary to natural 
movement. All natural motion is forward — onward — and 
anything that checks that onward, continuous movement 
"throws the machinery out of gear, as it were," to quote the 
expression used in a review of the system mentioned in a 
previous article. 

In the Bazaar and Mart controversy over shorthand, Mr. 
F. Redfern, the author of "Edeography," emphasized the 
importance of what he termed "onwardness." In expla- 
nation of the word, Mr. Redfern said: 

I mean that the pen shall be hindered as little as pos- 
sible in its onward march from left to right. Where this 
onwardness exists, it would alone enable a reporter to write 
a greater number of words per minute than he could in a 
system where vertical and backward strokes, hooks, etc., are 
the rule rather than the exception. 


The elimination of hooks turned backward has a greater 
influence towards fluency and naturalness of writing than 
is generally supposed. 

Two Sizes of Hooks. — In many of the older systems 
there are two sizes of hooks- It requires great nicety of 
execution to distinguish these hooks, especially in a sys- 
tem containing the half-lengthening expedient; yet in many 
instances the small hook expresses one sound, and the same 
hook made larger expresses an entirely different sound. 
This is a violation of the principle that "sounds within a 
determined degree of likeness be represented by signs within 
a determined degree of likeness; whilst sounds be- 
yond a certain degree of likeness be represented by dis- 
tinct and different signs." Furthermore, in a geometric 
system, there is very little difference in many instances in 
size or shape between a large hook and a half-length curve. 

Many of the best writers of Pitman's Shorthand have 
vigorously denounced the use of the large initial hook for 
I before curves. This expedient was introduced in Pit- 
man's Shorthand in 1862, and the greatest exponent of 
Isaac Pitman Shorthand of that time, Mr. Thomas Allen 
Reed, declined to adopt the expedient in his own practice, 
as did many other capable writers. Indeed, Mr. Reed went 
so far as to speak of the "abomination of the large hooks"; 
and his arguments against the large hooks, supplemented 
by those of Mr. William Relton and many other eminent 
authorities on the system, convinced Isaac Pitman (after 
more than thirty years) that he had made a mistake in 
allowing them to become a part of the system. In the last 
years of his life the venerable author attempted to remove 
them from the system, but his sons to whom he had given 
the control of the business, declined to permit the change 
to be made. Shortly before his death, Mr. Pitman issued 
numerous appeals to all Phonographers to eschew the use 


of these large initial hooks before curves, declaring them 
to be a "blot on the system." 

There lies before me a pamphlet, consisting of eight 
large-size pages, of a somewhat remarkable character. It 
is entitled, "From the Teachers of Pitman's Shorthand to 
Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons"; it is dated, "Bath, 5th Septem- 
ber, 1896." This pamphlet, compiled and published by Sir 
Isaac Pitman, and sent to the junior members of the firm, 
consists of extracts from letters received by Sir Isaac from 
teachers, approving of the changes he proposed to make in 
the system and which were vetoed by the junior members 
of the firm, to whom he had turned over the control of the 
business. The copy in my possession is rendered peculiarly 
interesting because it bears at the top of the first 
page in the handwriting of Sir Isaac, "For Alfred and 
Ernest," and all through the pamphlet the passages which 
the author of Phonography considered deserving of special 
attention, are marked in red ink. One curious thing about 
it is that Sir Isaac evidently considered that the best w r ay 
to emphasize any part of the pamphlet was to draw a red 
ink line through — not underneath — the words. The senti- 
ments expressed by the many teachers, quoted by Sir Isaac, 
are in substance to be found in these extracts: 

The late Mr. J. T. Beck, of Liverpool, wrote: 

The sooner the large initial hooks to curves are abolished, 
and the new arrangement introduced, the better it will be 
for all concerned. 

Mr. G. F. Sandiford, of Manchester, wrote: 

My views on the advisability of the abolition of the large, 
initial L hooks to curves are quite unchanged, and will re- 
quire other methods than those being adopted to change 

Among those supporting Sir Isaac in his battle with his 
sons were some of the leading authorities on Pitman's 


Shorthand of that time, and among them were some who 
are still prominent. Here are some quotations) from a letter 
to Sir Isaac from Mr. James Hynes, now manager of the 
London office of Isaac Pitman & Sons: 

It is difficult to understand the objections to the im- 
provements. Indeed, I am beginning to think that the 
objections are more apparent than real. I have recently 
spoken to the principal teachers in the Manchester Society, 
and I find that they are unanimously in favor of the al- 
terations. I am teaching the "new style" in my classes 
and with the most gratifying results. I have never had 
such ease in teaching the initial hooks nor have the exercises 
ever been done so well. . . . It is to be regretted that the 
Firm cannot see how much they are standing in their own 
light in blocking the improvements, as they are doing. It is 
a suicidal policy thus to refuse to simplify the system for the 
learner, and especially for the pupils in the day schools of 
the country, upon whom the future of Phonography will so 
largely depend. It would be a thousand pities if the im- 
provements should be killed by opposition. I should be 
glad if Sir Isaac could in some way make it publicly known 
that the improvements are not to be abandoned. 

Benn Pitman in his "Life and Labors of Sir Isaac Pit- 
man," explains that his differences with his brother Isaac 
arose "on account of my rejection of his injudicious and 
much-repented-of change in the system — the use of large 
initial hooks on curved strokes — which he introduced into 
the English text-books in 1862 — the very changes which he 
labored so energetically during the last six years of his 
life to expunge from the system as a 'defect' and 'a blot'." 

Benn Pitman quotes Thomas Allen Reed as saying of 
Isaac Pitman's efforts to get rid of the large hooks, "They 
are but a return to a safe, convenient practice, which I 
never abandoned." 

I believe I am one of the very few people possessed of 
a complete set of the pamphlets and journals issued by Sir 


Isaac Pitman in his controversy with his sons in the clos- 
ing years of his life, and probably my set is unique, in that 
it contains very interesting and enlightening communica- 
tions from the sons to the members of the committee, who 
were to pass upon the "improvements" advocated by their 
father, the author of the system. Sir Isaac, at over eighty 
years of age, fighting desperately — even on his deathbed 
— for the removal of the "blots" on his system is an heroic 
figure, albeit a pathetic one. Concerning the exclusion of 
one or two forms of large-hooked strokes, Sir Isaac Pitman 
wrote from his deathbed, "My system of shorthand shall 
not go down to posterity with two sizes of initial hooks to 
curved strokes, and two forms each for double consonants 
which are better represented by one sign." (The Speler, 
page 172.) Sir Isaac Pitman also said, "The system has 
two blots, which I, as the providential Inventor of the 
system, cannot allow to remain, and depart from this world 
in peace." (The Speler, page 2, January, 1897.) Sir Isaac 
died a few days later. 

Briefly told, Sir Isaac condemned the use of large initial 
hooks on curves in his system for these reasons: 

1. In high speeds it is impossible to preserve the dis- 
tinction of size in hooks. 

2. The halving of a letter with a large hook makes an 
indistinct character. 

3. Big initial hooks are ugly. 

4. Professional reporters, who learned Phonography before 
their introduction, will not use them. 

In answer to this, his sons said: 

The halving of a letter with a large initial hook, we are 
told, makes an indistinct character. For the same reason, 
so must the halving of a consonant with a large final hook. 
Yet fashioned, occasioned, motioned, etc., are to be per- 
mitted, while flat, quote, etc., must be discarded. 


Now, I agree with both father and sons! We maintain 
that the distinction of two sizes of hooks, whether joined to 
half-length or full-length strokes, or initial or final, cannot 
be observed in rapid writing. 

In Gregg Shorthand there is but one size of hook any- 
where, and there are no hooks turned backward. 

Four Lengths. — In many systems there are four, and 
sometimes even five, lengths of characters. Such distinc- 
tions require great nicety of execution, which can be main- 
tained only by those who have trained themselves to al- 
most perfect control of hand. Even then the distinctions 
can be made only when writing at a moderate rate of speed. 
In Pitman's Shorthand four lengths are in constant use, 
although it is the practice to speak of three lengths only. 
There is the short dash used for the logograms, a half- 
length, a full-length, and the so-called "double-length/' and 
in certain instances the so-called "triple-length." These 
four lengths are illustrated in: you (1), met (2), my (3), 
mother (4) ; or in the words, due (1), admit (2), deem (3), 
diameter (4) ; or in to (1), pit (2), happy (3), peep (4). 

There are no four-length characters in Gregg Shorthand; 
and on account of the insertion of the vowels, even the third 
length is almost invariably distinguished as such, quite 
apart from its length. 

I could mention many other features of our system that 
distinguish it as a natural-writing system from the old-time 
systems, but I think I have said enough on the subject. 

As I View It. — The memorable meeting of teachers, 
writers, reporters, and school managers, held in Chicago 
in 1913 to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Gregg Shorthand, 
was the largest gathering of shorthand enthusiasts ever held 
in all the long history of the art. At the closing meeting 
I was called upon to speak on "The Shorthand World To- 
day." While it was an informal and impromptu talk to 


a gathering of friends, the closing sentences so well express 
my views on the principles of shorthand construction that 
I have clipped them from the report of the meeting as an 
appropriate resume of what I have set forth in this and in 
previous articles: 

"In the end it will all come down to the question of what 
are the right principles of shorthand writing. 

"What shall be our guide in the matter of shorthand 
principles? I believe that what is natural will survive; 
that if we work along the natural lines, we are best help- 
ing the development of the art and helping its extensive 
use; and that the extension of the use of shorthand will be 
of vast importance as a factor in the saving of time and 
effort, and in the advancement of education. 

"Now, what is natural? It seems to me that it is not 
natural to write thick and thin characters. It can hardly 
be disputed that it is natural to write characters that are 
free from arbitrary shading. What next? I do not think 
that it is natural to write words in position — that is, above 
the line, on the line, through the line, or under the line. 
All natural writing should be in a continuous line. 

"I do not believe that it is natural to write a consonant 
skeleton of a word — mentally to analyze a word, separat- 
ing the consonants from the vowels and then put down only 
the consonants, going back over the outline afterwards to 
dot-in the vowels. It is a great tax on the mind to analyze 
the forms in this way, and it is a still greater tax to decide 
whether the vowel is important, and then a further tax to 
remember where that particular dot or dash should be 
placed in relation to the consonant. I believe that the 
vowels should be written in their natural order in the out- 
line as they occur, and written by characters that are 
natural links between the consonants. 

"And it does not seem to me natural to write characters 


in all possible directions, making a series of zigzag move- 
ments. Our ordinary longhand is the product of centuries 
of evolution: it is easy, natural, and graceful. So I believe 
shorthand, the highest development of writing, should have 
that same beauty of form and ease of writing that charac- 
terizes longhand — the grace of form about which Mr. 
Brown spoke in discussing penmanship. The characters 
in shorthand should appeal to the artistic eye. . . . 

"I believe that this shorthand of ours embodies these 
natural principles, and that it is going to be the writing that 
will prevail in all countries eventually, and that it will live 
long after we have passed away. I believe, too, that in 
looking back to this convention in the years to come, in all 
lands, they will see the starting of a movement for a writ- 
ing in all languages that shall express the evolution of the 
art of writing in its highest form, whatever that ultimate 
form may be." 



There are five main divisions of the problem of short- 
hand construction: 

1. The Sounds to be expressed 

2. The evaluation of the Sounds 

3. The selection of the Shorthand Material to express 
these Sounds 

4. The evaluation of the Shorthand Material 

5. The use of the Shorthand Material with the greatest 
degree of economy and efficiency 

In this chapter I intend to discuss the first of these 
divisions — the sounds to be expressed. I take it for granted 
that it is unnecessary at this late day to demonstrate that 
shorthand should be written by sound. 

The Origin of Writing by Sound. — An impression 
long prevailed that writing by sound originated with Isaac 
Pitman. A series of articles on "The Evolution of Phonetic 
Shorthand," which appeared in the Stenographer for De- 
cember, 1902, began: 

Isaac Pitman is commonly credited with having originated 
the use of the phonetic principle in shorthand. That this is 
erroneous there is abundant evidence to show. More than 
two centuries before the publication of Stenographic Sound- 
Hand, shorthand authors were directing their pupils to write 
according to the sounds of words and not according to the 
received orthography. Such was the instruction given by 
each of the following authors: John Willis (1602), Edmond 



Willis (1618), Cartwright (1642), Metcalfe (1645), Rich 
(1646), Bridges (1659), Shelton (1650), Everardt (1658), 
Mason (1672), Stringer (1680?), Ridpath (1687), Barmby 
(1700), Weston (1727), Gibbs (1736), Macaulay (1747), Tiffin 
(1750), Annet (1750), Angell (1758), Taplin (1760), Holds- 
worth and Aldridge (1766), Graves and Ashton (1775), Her- 
vey (1779), Blanchard (1779), Taylor (1786), Mavor (1789), 
Lewis (1815), Bailey (1819?), Towndrow (1831), and Moat 
(1833). Tiffin (1750) used a phonetic alphabet in which all 
the consonant sounds were represented, and a full vowel 
scale, "suited to the utterances of the languages," as he said. 
He claimed that his was the first system of the kind, and 
stated that by it one could "express in writing his own pro- 
nunciation or any other that he has a mind to represent." 
Others had alphabets more or less phonetic in their arrange- 
ment, and the American system of Phineas Bailey (about 
1819), is known to have been based upon a purely pho- 
netic alphabet. 

In the early days of his "Stenographic Sound-Hand" and 
"Phonography" Isaac Pitman repeatedly claimed that he 
originated phonetic shorthand writing and also the word 
11 Phonography." In a circular which he issued in 1841 he 
spoke of his "First Edition" thus: "This work is inter- 
esting, as containing the first attempt at writing by sound"; 
and at the Phonetic Festival, Birmingham, in 1848, he said: 
"The committee who got up this meeting gave me for a 
subject, 'Phonography/ a single word; a word which I was 
the means of introducing into the language." Comment- 
ing on these statements, Mr. Andrew J. Graham (Students' 
Journal, July, 1889) said: 

This self-praise is clearly too much. The term, "Pronounc- 
ing Stenography," — the precise equivalent of Isaac Pitman's 
term, "Stenographic Sound-Hand" — was applied by Mr. 
Keyes A. Bailey to his system, published in New York in 
1831, which, be it noted, is six years before Mr. Pitman's 
"Stenographic Sound-Hand." So that Mr. Pitman cannot 
have the glory of originating the idea of phonetic representa- 


tion in shorthand, nor of the invention of even the name. 
The name Phonography was first applied by Isaac Pitman in 
1840, but it has been applied in a work of 144 pages, teach- 
ing phonetic spelling, published in London in 1701, with the 
following title: "Practical Phonography; or, the new art 
of rightly spelling or reading words by the sight thereof. 
Applied to the English tongue by J. Jones, M. D." 

Xor can Mr. Pitman have the honor of first applying the 
term Phonography to shorthand writing; for in 1691, there 
was published in London, a book by Joseph Games, entitled 
"Phonography ; or How to write the English tongue by the 
Sound Thereof;" and the equivalent, Phonegraphy — voice- 
writing, or writing by sound, was applied in 1839, by De 
Stains, to his shorthand system, which was published some 
months before Mr. Pitman issued his "Second Edition" with 
the name, Phonography. 

In his " History of Shorthand," Thomas Anderson also 
refers to the claims made by Isaac Pitman and his early 
disciples that " writing by sound n originated with Pit- 
man's Phonography: 

The title, Phonography, is not new, no more are the 
ideas on which the system is founded, as we find the title first 
used by M. C. Luc, 1809 . . . and we also find the arrange- 
ment of the alphabet, as well as its pretense to a philosophi- 
cal foundation, enunciated by Dr. John Byrom in 1767. Not 
only so, but anyone may see in the alphabet of Blanchard 
(1779) all the outlines of characters used by Pitman. Pit- 
man's sh is only Blanchard's j, Pitman's / is his r, Blanchard's 
w is Pieman's r, which when thickened is also made to do 
service in Pitman's system for w, 1 and Pitman's s and z 
(circle) are also those of Blanchard. The inquisitive student 
will also find that the very arrangement of the alphabet of 
Mr. Pitman is little less than a reproduction of that of Dr. 
Byrom, who clustered the letters according to their affinity 
of sound or their labial connection, thus : p, b, j, v, t, d, th, s, 

1 This refers to the old form for w in Isaac Pitman's system, 
which is still retained in most of the American Pitmanic sys- 
tems, Munson, Graham, etc. 


z, sh. In this alphabet, too, we recognize the plan taken by 
Mr. Pitman, of using the combination of ks for x. Further, 
in the work published by Scott de Mainville, we find all the 
hooked characters which Pitman employs for fr, fl, gl, pr, br, 

The First Phonetic System. — Benn Pitman, in his 
"Life and Labors of Sir Isaac Pitman," said: 

It is a curious incident in stenographic history that the 
exact order of Isaac Pitman's vowel scheme, and to a great 
extent the pairing of the consonants, was anticipated in one 
system of Shorthand, namely, that by Holdsworth and Al- 
dridge, joint authors of "Natural Shorthand" published in 
1766. ... It was the first brief system of writing in which 
the phonetic principle and a full alphabet were recognized. 

Referring to Holdsworth and Aldridge's system in his 
"History of Shorthand," Isaac Pitman said: 

"This system is constructed on a phonetic basis, but will 
not stand the test of practice." 

The title page of Holdsworth and Aldridge's system 
declares that "All the simple characters are as analogous to 
each other as the sounds they represent." 

France, too, has a claim to the origin of phonetic short- 
hand. In the Journalist (London) for June 24, 1887, M. 
Jean P. A. Martin put in a claim on behalf of Conen de 
Prepean. He said: 

1813 v. 1837. — A Lesson to all Fathers of Phonography. — 
On the 11th November, 1813, before the Societe Academique 
de Paris, a report was read about Conen de Prepean's Stenog- 
raphy. The second paragraph ran thus: "Exact Stenog- 
raphy is the art of writing as fast as one can speak by taking 
down accurately every sound uttered by man, no matter 
the language." At that time, Mr. Isaac Pitman, the well- 
known father of Phonography, was in his infancy. Three 
years before the event I have just referred to, a man had 
died who was a strong advocate of Phonetic printing; M. Ur- 


bain Domergue published in phonotypy a book entitled : "La 
Pronontiation Notee" (1796). Louis Meygret had set Mr. 
Pitman the example in 1542. I can guess, however, that Mr. 
Pitman was 16 years of age in the days of the prosperity of 
the French Spelling Reform Association (1829) ; that he was 
but a boy when Conen de Prepean was advocating phonetic 
spelling, and pushing Phonography to the front. 

"Grizzling hair the brain doth clear," and in the more 
philosophic mood, and with the wider knowledge and 
broader outlook that came to him with advancing years, 
Isaac Pitman frankly admitted that he neither invented 
phonetic writing nor the word "Phonography." In some 
of his statements he went to extremes of modesty in dep- 
recating his work in this respect. In 1862, acknowledging 
a testimonial, he said: 

It is stated to have been presented as a mark of gratitude 
for the invention of Phonography Now I wish to say, and 
I ought to know, that there is really no invention in the 
matter. I do not know any one word in the language which 
would express what Phonography is. It is certainly neither 
an invention nor a discovery, for I invented nothing and 
discovered nothing. I was considering the matter this morn- 
ing while enjoying a long walk home from beyond Pad- 
dington and the only word I could think of was usufruct. 
Phonography is a usufruct, a fruit of use — taking the word in 
its etymological sense, and not in the accommodated legal 
sense signifying a temporary possession of something that 
really belongs to another. The word might express the idea 
of some truth brought into use. Phonography is just that 
and nothing more — a truth acted out. 

And in his "History of Shorthand" he said: 

It may be noticed here that the title "Phonography" was 
adopted by the writer of this history as the most suitable 
term for his own system of Phonetic Shorthand in 1839, 
several months before "Phonography" [De Stains's] ap- 
peared and under the impression that it was a new word 


added to the language, as he also thought (not having access 
to many books) that he was the first in modern times to 
attempt to write words in accordance with their pronuncia- 
tion. He has since found that about a hundred authors have 
written on this subject and urged its importance on man- 
kind. . . . The use of the word "Phonography" may be 
traced back one hundred thirty-nine years before the ap- 
pearance of that system of Shorthand which now bears the 
name. The writer has in his possession a work entitled 
"Practical Phonography," a thin quarto volume, published in 
1701 by John Jones, M. D. The aim of this writer was not 
to introduce a new character nor even to alter the spelling 
of words, but merely to assist persons in learning to read or 
spell by means of tables of words, classified according to 
their sounds, whereby the irregularities of the common spell- 
ing are more clearly perceived. 

In a discussion on the origin of phonetic writing, the 
Proceedings of the International Shorthand Congress, in 
1887, reports (in the third person) Sir Isaac as saying: 

He had never claimed or imagined that phonetic writing 
originated with him; but when he published his first short- 
hand work in 1837, he was not acquainted with the earlier 
literature of the subject of phonetics. 

The articles that have been written on this subject and 
the papers that have been read before various societies — 
all designed to prove that Isaac Pitman did not originate 
either phonetic shorthand or the word "Phonography" — if 
printed in one volume would make a book of formidable 
proportions. For my part, I believe that such discussions 
are absolutely futile and absurd. Doubtless they were 
originally evoked by Sir Isaac's early statements on the 
subject and have been kept alive by the persistence with 
which the Pitman firm — even after the disclaimers of Sir 
Isaac — endeavored to disseminate the idea that pho- 
netic shorthand originated with "Phonography" and that 


all the systems of shorthand antedating "Phonography" 
were crude "stenographies." 

An Overworked Quotation. — This impression has 
been deepened by constant repetition of the description of 
shorthand given by Charles Dickens in "David Copper- 
field," containing the statement that "the mere mechanical 
acquisition necessary, except in rare cases, for thorough 
excellency in it — that is to say, a perfect and entire com- 
mand of the mastery of shorthand writing and reading — 
is about equal in difficulty to the mastery of six languages, 
and that it might perhaps be attained, by dint of persever- 
ance, in the course of a few years." 

This quotation from the pen of the famous author, who 
was an accomplished writer of the Gurney system, has 
done yeoman service for the Pitman firm in conveying 
the absolutely erroneous impression that the Gurney and 
other earlier systems were crude in structure and extremely 
difficult to acquire. 

Every reader and lover of Dickens knows that he 
heightened the effect of his novels by humorous, and some- 
times even ludicrous, exaggerations; and this is true of his 
description of learning shorthand. When one remembers 
that Dickens had mastered the Gurney system so com- 
pletely, and attained such proficiency as a writer of it, as to 
have a seat in the Reporters' Gallery of the House of Com- 
mons at the early age of nineteen years, the statement that 
the "mastery of shorthand is about equal to the mastery of 
six languages" will be received — as it was intended to be 
received, — as a humorous exaggeration. 

When all is said that can be said on the subject, I believe 
that the great achievement of Isaac Pitman was the definite 
establishment of the phonetic principle in shorthand writing. 
It is incontestable that he was the first to publish a system 
in which phonetic writing was advocated as fundamental, 


and he was the first to apply that principle fully and practi- 
cally. The very title of his first book, "Stenographic Sound- 
Hand/' shows clearly that it was the dominant thought in 
his mind in connection with the system he had produced. 
I believe, therefore, that while he did not actually originate 
writing by sound in shorthand the glory of establishing it as 
a fundamental principle in the construction of shorthand 
systems will ever be associated with the name of Isaac Pit- 

American Author Anticipates Isaac Pitman. — Since 
the above was printed in the Gregg Shorthand Magazine a 
correspondent called my attention to the fact that the Rev. 
Phineas Bailey, of Poultney, Vermont, who first published 
his system in 1819, took a definite stand in favor of pho- 
netic shorthand in the edition of his book published in 
1831. My correspondent says: 

"The statement you made that 'the very title of Isaac 
Pitman's first book ("Stenographic Sound-Hand") shows 
clearly that it was the dominant thought in his mind in con- 
nection with the system he produced' will apply equally 
as well to the system of Phineas Bailey, as the title of his 
book was 'Pronouncing Stenography '." 

A reference to Phineas Bailey's book discloses the fact 
that the full title was "A Pronouncing Stenography, con- 
taining a complete system of shorthand writing, governed 
by the analogy of sounds, and adapted to every language." 
The first rule reads: 

"Rule I. Spell w T ords according to their most simple 
sound, omitting silent letters, and joining the remainder 
as closely as possible." 

My correspondent adds: "You will see that there is 
a very remarkable resemblance in ideas and in title be- 
tween 'Pronouncing Stenography' and 'Stenographic Sound- 
Hand,' and Bailey's book antedated Pitman's by half a 
dozen years." 


" Sound-Hand " and " H and- Writing." — Some years 
ago, in discussing systems with a teacher of great ex- 
perience — a man who took a deep interest in shorthand 
principles — he remarked: "The outstanding feature of 
Isaac Pitman's invention was the phonetic principle — writ- 
ing by sound; while the outstanding feature of your sys- 
tem is its adaptation to the natural movement of the hand. 
Pitman's system embodied a scientific analysis of sound- 
writing; you have adopted that principle and have added 
to it a scientific analysis of /icmd-writing." 

I don't suppose that the gentleman who made this epi- 
grammatic statement was aware that the first book of our 
system was entitled "The Phonetic Handwriting," and it did 
not occur to me at the time. It is somewhat singular that 
the title of that book should have embodied the dominant 
thought in my mind, just as "Stenographic Sound-Hand" 
embodied the dominant thought in the mind of Isaac Pit- 

After all, the statement that shorthand is "written by 
sound" is but relatively true of any system. Even in theory 
what is written for many words is but an approximation 
to the actual sounds: in practice, the phonetic theory is 
thrown overboard in many systems. 

For example, the distinguished London professional re- 
porter, Thomas Hill, in a discussion before the Shorthand 
Society, London, on one occasion said: 

I wish to correct the statement that Pitman's system was 
"phonetic both in theory and in practice." That system 
was, no doubt, phonetic in theory, but in practice it was 
unphonetic. For instance, although normally the halving 
of a thin letter added t and the halving of a thick letter 
added d, yet in practice a thin letter was frequently halved 
to express the addition of d, and contrariwise, a thick letter 
was frequently halved to express the addition of t. A nota- 
ble instance of this departure from theory was afforded by 


the usual form for the word affidavit. In this case the thin 
letter / was halved to express fd, and the thick letter v was 
halved to express vt. This was an entire reversal of the the- 
ory. Another instance was afforded by the current way of 
writing the syllable ted in the last tense of a verb — namely, 
a half -sized t. 

The great phonetician, Alexander Melville Bell, con- 
demned Pitman's Phonography because, he said, "it fur- 
nished no means for the writing of four of the most dis- 
tinctive of all the vowel sounds in 'English: those heard in 
ere, err, ask, ore." 

The Number of Sounds. — In discussing the "Elements 
of the English Language," Andrew J. Graham said: "The 
number of simple and proximate elements of the English 
language (exclusive of whispered I, m, n, and ng) is forty- 
six." He added: "There are sixteen vowels, which may be 
represented by twelve signs provided no distinction is made 
by means of signs, between the vowels of ale and air, ebb 
and her, at and ask, old and whole." 

In theory at least, most phonetic systems provide for the 
expression of forty-one sounds, as follows: 

p, b, f, v, k, g, t, d, th, the, n, m, ng, r, I, s, z, sh, zh, ch, j. 


w, y, wh. (3) 

ft. (1) 


a as in at, a as in arm, a as in aim; i as in if; e as in ebb, 
e as in eat; o as in on, o as in orb or broad; o as in roe; u 
as in hut; oo as in foot, oo as in doom. (12) 


u as in fume; ow as in now; oi as in oil; i as in fine. (4) 


Some authors have provided special characters ior q 
(kw), and x (ks) ; others have attempted a more complete 
expression of the vowels by making provision for the sound 
of a heard in air, a heard in ask, e heard in her, and of o 
heard in whole. Prof. J. D. Everett, in his "Shorthand 
for General Use/' has characters for fifteen vowels and four 
diphthongs. He distinguishes between a as in mat, and 
a as in comma, mica, boa, between u as in bud, cull, bur- 
row, son, rough, and ur, as in fur, curl, burn, fir, fern, and 
between o as in home, comb, and o as in so, flow, pole, toe. 
(These are the actual illustrations given in his book.) 

Yet Professor Everett admitted that he had not provided 
for all the vowel-sounds. His exact language was: "With- 
out pretending to represent every shade of vowel-sound 
employed in correct English speech, I claim a nearer 
approach to this end than has been attained by any system 
of shorthand hitherto published." 

Sound Refinements a Source of Confusion. — But 
such refinements of the vocal elements are now generally 
recognized as being unnecessary and a source of confusion 
to students. The trend in recent times has been toward 
simplification, rather than elaboration, of the phonetic 
element in both consonants and vowels; in other words, 
toward a reduction of the number of fine distinctions of 

Theodore R. Wright, in his address as President of the 
Shorthand Society, London (after having Written Pitman's 
Shorthand as a professional reporter for more than thirty 
years), said: 

As a practical man I must enter a protest against the un- 
necessary refinement which some phonetic theories introduce 
into the vowel system. To insist on having separate signs 
for the vowels in take and tare, on and all, could and food, 
rat, and rather, wet and whether, is, in my opinion, totally 


unnecessary; if we have good joining forms for oo and e, 
the so-called consonants w and y, which are really vowels, 
may be dispensed with, and the second th is another unneces- 
sary refinement. If we adopt this practical view we thus 
effect a saving in our all too scanty material to the extent of 
eight characters. The following would be an acceptable 
vowel scale for the stenographic purposes: pat, pet, pit, but, 
rod, rood, rode, reed, raid, night, newt, now, boy. 

The late Charles Currier Beale, of Boston, who was a 
talented as well as an erudite and profound writer on 
shorthand topics, claimed as a merit of the Pitmanic style 
he evolved that in it "the difficulties of phonetic spelling 
were reduced to a minimum," through a reduction in the 
number of vowel-sounds expressed. It is true that some 
authors — mainly those who have adapted systems from 
languages containing fewer sounds than English — have gone 
to an extreme in the reduction of the representation of both 
consonants and vowels. In some of them even such vital 
distinctions as those between t and th x gay and jay, u and 
o, are ignored in practice. 




Shorthand is found to depend., not upon a formidable array 
of marshalled hieroglyphics, but upon the active maneu- 
vering of a few selected signs. 

— Edward Pocknell 

It will readily be understood that, with the limited ma- 
terial at the disposal of the shorthand constructor, great 
economy must be exercised in making assignments of mate- 
rial to the various sounds. It is, then, desirable at this 
point to consider what economies of material are possible 
without loss of efficiency. 

Pairing of Consonants. — A great economy of mate- 
rial is effected by the pairing of the related consonants — 
p, b; t, d; k, g, etc. This simplifies the learning of the char- 
acters; and the affinity of sound between the letters which 
are paired is helpful in reading. At the same time it en- 
ables us to express two letters by one stroke — the short 
stroke expressing the short sound and the long stroke, the 
long sound. 

This plan of pairing the cognates was recognized and 
adopted by shorthand authors more than a century ago; 
but owing to the fact that in most of the older systems the 
distinction was made by shading, it was impossible to ap- 
ply the principle to the same extent as is done in Gregg 
Shorthand. It is, for example, impossible in Pitmanic 
Shorthand to pair the upward characters, since the shad- 



ing of up-strokes is practically impossible. Nor is it de- 
sirable to express sounds of frequent occurrence by shaded 
horizontal strokes or curves, as it is difficult to write thick- 
ened horizontal characters. As distinction between the pairs 
is made in our system by length instead of by thickening, 
it is possible for us to form pairs for the upward characters 
and to use both the horizontal straight lines and horizontal 
curves for frequently -occurring pairs of letters. In this 
way we gain in the pairing of n and m, r and I, which are 
not paired in Pitmanic shorthand. The gain from the pair- 
ing of these letters is enormous. It is a gain not only in 
economy of material, but in effectiveness, as it brings into 
constant use two of the most facile shorthand characters 
for the expression of very frequent sounds — characters, 
too, that flow along the line, thus avoiding ineffectual pen 

At this stage I am directing attention mainly to the great 
gains effected by the elimination of shading as a means of 
distinction between the phonetic pairs; but it may be well 
to point out, in an incidental way, that distinction by 
length is more natural than distinction by thickening. It is 
the method of distinction to which the hand has been fa- 
miliar from childhood in the practice of longhand. Some 
of the letters of longhand, like & and I are distinguished 
wholly by length; and many other letters vary mainly in 
length, thus: a, y d, ^; v 3 t\ 6- f] ft, 4; 6, ^; ^, w; v, w-. 

Unnecessary Consonantal Distinctions. — There are 
a few consonant sounds — s and z; sh and zh; th and the — 
which are so closely related that precise distinction between 
them is unnecessary. While recognizing this in practice, 
many of the older systems have wasted good material in 
trying to provide precise distinctions between these sounds 
in theory. In the Pitman alphabet special signs are pro- 
vided for s and z $ but neither of these signs is much used 


in practice; nor is the distinction between these sounds ob- 
served in practice, as a circle (which is not given in the al- 
phabet) is used for either s or z. So, too, an alphabetic 
distinction is made between sh and zh, and yet in practice 
the distinction is not observed in a whole series of words. 
A distinction is made in the alphabet between the two 
sounds of th, and yet in a series of words no distinction 
is made between t, th, and the! The waste of material in 
all this is amazing. To make this clear, I shall deal with 
these letters in detail. 

S and Z. — While s is one of the most frequent sounds 
in the language, the sound of z is one of the least frequent. 
In nearly all systems s and z are expressed by the same 
sign in practice. Taylor's "Commentary on Isaac Pitman's 
Shorthand" says: "In addition to the strokes for s and z, 
which the student has already learned, these consonants 
may also be represented by a small circle." The "Phono- 
graphic Amanuensis" (Benn Pitman and Jerome B. How- 
ard) says: "The small circle is joined to any one of the al- 
phabetic strokes to represent either s or zP Munson ("Art 
of Phonography") says: "Either s or z may be added by a 
small circle to any consonant-stem." 

The reasons why s and z should be represented by the 
same sign are well expressed by Mr. D. P. Lindsley: 

Since z only can unite with the semi-vocal and s only 
with a whispered sound, the circle may be used for either z 
or s. We use s in the common spelling for z in such words 
as "heads," "bags," etc; and even z for s in "quartz." Since 
only z can unite with d and g, and only s can unite with t, 
these sounds become definite. It will be noticed that I, n and 
r take either z or s after them, as in "false," "falls," "worse," 
"wars," "hence," "hens." To distinguish z from s after these 
letters, the circle is made heavy for z and light for s. This is 
not necessary in ordinary practice, but may be done when 
special accuracy is desirable. 


(Needless to say, the distinction suggested by Mr. Linds- 
ley — making a small circle "heavy" — is purely theoretical.) 

Quite apart from the economy effected in the use of val- 
uable alphabetic material, the learning of a system is 
greatly simplified by the elimination of a special character 
for a letter that does not require definite expression in a 
fraction of one per cent of the words in the language, even 
in a disjoined- vowel system. 

Sh, Zh and Th, Dh. — What has been said about s and 
z applies, of course, to sh and zh, but with greater force. 
As Jerome B. Howard, the publisher of the Benn Pitman 
system, put it, "The sound of zh is the least frequent of all 
English sounds. It is heard in French words, as 'rouge' and 
'VosgesV 1 

It is, therefore, a sheer waste of good material to provide 
a special sign for it: a diacritical mark added to sh, if it 
should ever be necessary, is sufficient. In Pitman's Short- 
hand zh is expressed by the same sign as sh in a series of 
words — "vision," "invasion," "derision," "profusion," etc. 

In answering a criticism of his "Legible Shorthand," 
which appeared in Pitman's Phonetic Journal, Mr. Edward 
Pocknell said: 

Here I may observe that Mr. Pitman does not stick to 
his principles and write the character for vision with the 
sound for zh, but he prefers v-shon (hook). If short is 
enough for zhon, why should not shure do for zhure in meas- 
ure and pleasure? 

What has been said about sh and zh applies to th as in 
"death" and th as in "blithe." In Pitmanic Shorthand no 
distinction is made between ter, der, ther, dher, in a whole 
series of terminations. Purely theoretical distinctions in 

1 In the Lindsley table, given on page 182, zh is stated to 
have occurred but seven times in 12,943 words! 


the alphabet results in a great waste of material that might 
be used for some really useful purpose. 

The Three "Nondescripts." — There are three other 
sounds which require special notice: w, y, and h. More 
than anything else, differences about the expression of these 
three sounds (which Isaac Pitman described as "nonde- 
scripts") , have split Pitmanic shorthand into warring fac- 
tions. In England, by virtue of the copyright law, there 
can be no effectual difference on the question so far as 
publication or instruction are concerned; but in America 
there is great diversity in the manner of expressing these 
sounds in the various Pitmanic styles. The Benn Pitman 
system (the most widely used of all the Pitmanic styles 
in America) retains the forms for w, y, and h which Isaac 
Pitman discarded more than fifty years ago, as does 
Graham and others; in the Longley style h is expressed by 
the sign for r preceded by a downward tick; in the Munson 
style a thickened m expresses h; and so on. In the face of 
the rapid displacement of all the Pitmanic systems, stren- 
uous efforts have been made to "standardize" the various 
"styles"; but, after fourteen years of incessant discussion, 
the project is recognized to be absolutely hopeless — largely 
because of the irreconcilable differences over w, y, and h. 
Mr. J. N. Kimball, the noted Munson writer, said in the 
Phonographic World, "The moment you have numerous 
devices for the alphabetic characters, as for instance, with 
h, w, and y, you can by no possibility erect upon your 
foundation a standard system." 

In the expression of these letters the Pitmanic systems 
violate the principle that "a simple sound should be ex- 
pressed by a simple sign" 

The "Aspirate Problem." — Mr. Jerome B. Howard, 
publisher of the Benn Pitman system, once read a paper 
on "A Proposed Solution of the Aspirate Problem," in which 


he narrated the many changes Isaac Pitman had made in 
the method of expressing the aspirate. Mr. Howard's sol- 
emn account of the "problem," and of the many efforts to 
solve it, would be simply amusing to a writer of our sys- 
tem. Mr. Howard concluded his story of the many methods 
adopted at various times for the expression of the aspirate 
with these words: 

When it is seen how mutable has been the practice of the 
"father of Phonography" in treating this troublesome mem- 
ber of his shorthand family (no less than twelve different 
signs having been used by him to represent it) it will cease to 
be a matter of wonder that the "modifiers" and "improvers" 
of the system have differed greatly in its treatment. 

The author of a recent system on a Pitmanic basis 
speaks of h as " that most unfortunate derelict in shorthand, 
which has been switched, twisted, and has floundered around 
ever since its inception, and still remains uncouth"! In 
Taylor's " Commentary on Pitman's Shorthand " no less 
than thirty-seven pages are devoted to the discussion of 
the various means of expressing the aspirate in that system! 

In our system "the aspirate problem" is solved by ex- 
pressing this "mere breathing" by a dot. In most words, 
such as him, happy, hope, heard, the dot may be omitted 
without any danger of misreading. Of course, in a dis- 
joined- vowel system it is not possible to do this. 

The Coalescents, W and Y. — The nature of w and y 
— whether vowels or consonants, or both — has been a sub- 
ject of almost endless discussion in shorthand textbooks 
and magazines. Perhaps the fact that the early advocates 
of Pitman's Phonography were more interested, at times, 
in the "spelling reform" than in Phonography accounts for 
the interest taken in what is purely a theoretical or aca- 
demic question, so far as practical shorthand is concerned. 
Perhaps, too, the fact that in Pitmanic shorthand various 


methods of expressing these sounds inclined Pitmanic au- 
thors to justify alternative means of expressing them by 
proving that the sounds were puzzling in themselves! 

Mr. Benn Pitman in his "Life and Labors of Sir Isaac 
Pitman," has of course, something to say about the prob- 

Lexicographers and grammarians say w and y are some- 
times vowels and sometimes consonants. The fact is they 
are neither. They rank midway between vowels and con- 
sonants; w being a slightly obstructed oo, and y a slightly 
obstructed e. We have but to pronounce oo-ay, first dis- 
tinctly, then more rapidly without pause, thus causing 
a closer position for the oo, and we hear way. If we pro- 
nounce e-oo without a pause, we hear yoo; that is e-oo, 
uttered without a hiatus or obstructing pause, becomes you, 

An eminent authority on phonetics, Alexander Melville 
Bell, F. R. S. S. A. (the father of Alexander Graham Bell, 
of telephone fame) said: 

The letters, y and w are the connecting links between the 
two classes of sounds — vowels and articulations; y being of 
the same formation as the vowel ee, and w of the same for- 
mation as the vowel oo. 

Mr. James E. Munson ("Art of Phonography") said: 

The sounds of w and y are so closely allied to the 
vowels oo and e respectively that they are sometimes called 
semi-vowels. Their vowel nature enables them readily to 
blend or coalesce with all the vowel-sounds and with several 
of the consonants. 

The Phonographic Magazine for May, 1904, contained a 
very labored explanation of why w and y were treated as 
consonants. The editor was asked by a correspondent to 
explain a paragraph in the Pitman Manual, which stated: 

The vowels oo and ee, the two extreme members of the 
long-vowel scale, are, from the exceeding closeness of their 


formation in the mouth, of such a nature that any vowel 
may readily follow either of them and coalesce with it in 
the same syllable, forming a combination much like a diph- 
thong. In such cases oo and ee are formed even closer than 
usual, and so nearly approach true obstructed sounds that 
they are often considered as consonants and give consonantal 
representation by strokes for w and y, to which the vowel 
which follows may be written. 

The editor's explanation was: 

A vowel may follow oo or ee just as a vowel may follow 
any other vowel. Whenever any vowel is followed by 
another vowel in the same syllable, a diphthong results. 
For instance, the diphthong / results from a vocal glide from 
the position of ah to the position of ee. Oi glides from aw 
to ee; and ow glides from ah to oo. These three glides are 
recognized as the true diphthongs of the English language, 
and it is to be noticed that they all have the stress or em- 
phasis on the first vowel, or, in other words, at the begin- 
ning of the glide. When a glide begins with ee or oo and 
passes to any other vowel, the stress lies at the end of 
the glide. These are diphthongs of a noticeably different 
sort from the three first mentioned, and, for distinction's sake 
they have long been called coalescent glides. The diph- 
thong-like nature of these sounds is recognized in phonogra- 
phy by a series of diphthong-like characters given for their 

W and y are used in the common orthography to repre- 
sent these sounds, and English orthoepists have long cher- 
ished the idea that these signs represent sounds which are 
true consonants, or at least, "sometimes" consonants. This 
view has been so long and so generally accepted that it 
has imposed itself upon phoneticians as well as " orthoe- 
pists," and the phoneticians have defended their acceptance 
of the doctrine by saying that when oo and ee thus coalesce 
with other vowels they are made a "little closer" than their 
usual formation, and so become true obstructed sounds and 
therefore "consonants." And in conformity with this reason- 
ing, which gives to these sounds something of both vowel 
and consonant character, the fathers of phonography pro- 


vided stroke signs for w and y as consonants, in addition to 
their vowel-like signs. It is, of course, apparent that the 
opening through which the sounds of oo and ee escape from 
the mouth are smaller than those of other vowels. In form- 
ing oo the lips are rounded and contracted to a very much 
smaller opening than is given, for instance, to aw. If in 
sounding oo the lips are puckered just a little tighter for an 
instant before the sound is allowed to pass out, a slightly 
exploded oo will be heard, and this is w. In like manner, if 
in producing ee the tongue is allowed to approach just a 
little closer to the ridge on the roof of the mouth just back 
of the upper teeth, so as to touch it very lightly and momen- 
tarily, the ee will be slightly exploded, and that is y. And 
yet the distinction is so delicate that the momentary ob- 
struction and explosion may be omitted without material 
difference in the sound of the word, and, in fact, it often is 
so omitted. This slight obstruction and explosion should 
be accepted as existing in the theoretically correct pro- 
nunciation in all words where oo or ee is followed by a 
stressed vowel in the same syllable. 

There have not been wanting phoneticians who deny to 
these coalescent glides any trace of true consonant charac- 
ter. Whether this view is sound or not, it is for practical 
shorthand purposes highly convenient to give w and y 
both a vowel and a consonant representation. 

The author of the Pit manic Shorthand Instructor, Mr. 
Charles T. Piatt, states the matter even more frankly: 

In ''wait" the w represents a vowel sound (oo as in "ooze") 
which coalesces with the following a so closely that the two 
are heard almost as one sound. In like manner, in "yoke" 
the y represents a vowel sound (as e in "eve"), which coa- 
lesces with the following o. . . . 

These sounds are often disguised in the common 
spelling (as "choir," pronounced kwire) ; but it will simplify 
the shorthand presentation to consider the letter w as repre- 
senting the coalescing oo, and the letter y as representing 
the coalescing e. 

In harmony with this, w and y are represented in Gregg 
Shorthand by a hook and a circle — the hook for oo express- 


ing w, and the circle for e expressing y. This simple, facile, 
and absolutely legible method of expression is not possible 
in a disjoined- vowel system. 

Consider the Saving in Material ! — The elimination of 
these theoretical distinctions from the alphabet reduces the 
number of special characters required, and the characters 
remaining may be used more advantageously than would 
otherwise be the case. 

It will be seen that in a properly constructed joined- vowel 
system it is unnecessary to provide special forms for w 
and y; that h may be expressed by a dot; and wh (pro- 
nounced hw) by placing the /z-dot over the sign for w when 
it is necessary to make the distinction. Here you have a 
saving of four special signs. Indeed, the saving is much 
greater than this, as most systems represent some or all of 
these sounds by several characters; but even if we assume 
that only one character was used in these systems for each 
of these sounds, the saving amounts to four special signs. 

Now if we eliminate the purely theoretical alphabetic dis- 
tinction between s and z, sh and zh, th and the, we have a 
saving of three additional special signs — making a total 
saving on the consonant material of seven characters, which 
is more than one-fourth of the entire number of consonant 

This explains why it is possible to place the writing in 
our system on a uniform slope, as in longhand, and thus 
obtain the enormous advantage in facility of movement 
derived from the use of characters familiar to the hand 
from infancy — and of characters that do not require a con- 
stant change of direction. 

The Expression of the Vowels. — So much for the 
consonants. Let us now consider the economies that may 
be effected in the expression of the vowels without loss of 
efficiency — but rather with increase in efficiency. 


If the pairing of similar consonantal sounds is an advan- 
tage in simplifying the learning, the writing, and particu- 
larly the reading, of shorthand, it is very obvious that 
vastly greater advantages may be obtained by the grouping 
of vowel sounds that are more closely related than are any 
of the consonants. 

In correct speech the sounds of the consonants are defi- 
nite, unchangeable; but even in correct speech, the sounds 
of many of the vowels are so indefinite or neutral that or- 
thoepists and lexicographers differ as to the precise vowel 
sounds in thousands of words. 

Professor Everett said: 

Vowel sounds are not in general so sharply distinguished 
as consonant sounds, but in the mouths of different speakers 
shade almost insensibly into one another: being much more 
affected than consonants by local and individual peculiarities, 
as well as by the tone of feeling which the speaker throws 
into his words. 

And the Encyclopedia Britannica says: 

The sounds which are the most difficult to define are the 
vowels; a great variety may be indicated by the same sym- 
bol. ... It is clear, therefore, that the best alphabet 
would not long indicate very precisely the sounds which it 
was intended to represent. 

In a world language like English the vocal elements are 
subject to variation or modification in different countries, 
and sometimes in different parts of the same country. One 
has but to consider the futility of insisting upon a precise 
standard of recording the vowel sounds in words as spoken 
in Devonshire, Yorkshire, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland — 
not to mention the United States, Canada, Australia, and 
South Africa — to realize the advantages secured by the 
expression of closely -related vowel sounds by one sign, 


with provision for the indication of the exact shade of 
sound in the rare cases where such precision is necessary or 

Inflexible Vowel-Expression an Obstacle to Wide 
Use of Shorthand. — Anyone who has considered this 
question very much will realize that one of the greatest 
obstacles to the general use of shorthand, and to the adop- 
tion of a standard system of shorthand for the English 
language, has been the inflexible nature of the vowel ex- 
pression in the older systems — which was due to their faulty 
construction. As a sidelight on how this problem has stood 
in the way of a standard system for the English language, 
I quote the following from Benn Pitman's "Life and Labors 
of Sir Isaac Pitman": 

Careful speakers, however, in certain classes of words use 
a vowel of medium length. They insist that a preceding the 
continuants /, tin, s, and sh, as in laugh, path, master, rash, 
etc., is longer than the a in pat, cat, man, etc., but not so 
long as the a in alms, psalm, father, etc.; and also that the 
o in lost, soft, tossed, long, etc., is longer than the vowel in 
lot, sot, top, but shorter than the vowel in fall, fault, law, 
etc., though ol the same quality. The vowel in past, path, 
master, etc., we contend is not the lengthened a in pat, sat, 
etc., but the shortened a in palm, father, etc. English Pho- 
nographers write the short vowel for the medium length one 
in both cases, while Americans, more consistently, write the 
long one. . . . 

The English use of the same vowel in besides as in bet, 
revile as in revel, prefer as in preference, etc., is unknown 
here. American authorities, without exception, give this 
class of words with long e, and never with the e in met, 
but note that in the pronunciation of the former words, 
where the accent is on the following syllable, the e is some- 
what briefer than when under the accent. 

The vowel a preceding r, as in pair, dare, prayer, etc., 
is generally admitted by careful speakers of English, except 
the Scotch, to differ from a in plate, dame, paint, etc. The 


a in the former words is a somewhat more open sound than 
when it precedes other consonants, and a further difference 
consists in its vanish into uh, the vocal murmur; but when 
precediug other consonants the vowel position of a, in seek- 
ing repose, vanishes into i or e. 

R is a further disturber, in that it causes a diversity of 
pronunciation and representation, in certain classes of words, 
between American and English phonographers, which may- 
long remain unreconciled. The Phonetic scheme of vowels 
provides but two signs to represent three unlike sounds, as 
heard in the following words. Lines 2 and 4 are supposed 
to contain ths same vowel, though differently spelled. 

1. set, pen, serried, perish, peril, etc. 

2. earth, serve, mercy, firm, first, whirl, etc. 

3. cut, rub, sun, hurry, scurry, etc. 

4. word, burst, curse, worth, curl, whorl, etc. 

English phonographers write lines 1 and 2 with a short e, 
and lines 3 and 4 with short u. American phonographers 
write the first line only with the short e, and lines 2, 3, and 
4 with the short u. The English practice of writing serve, 
earth, etc., with the same vowel as set, pen, etc., and making 
a difference between firm, first, etc., and furnish, further, etc., 
seems paying deference to the spelling which is not justified 
by the usual pronunciation of educated people. 

As it would extend this chapter to a great length, I shall 
defer the explanation of the scientific grouping of the 
vowels until I come to the story of the manner in which 
the various assignments of material were made. 

The Actual Saving Effected. — To come back to the 
economies effected in the use of material to express the 

There are twelve simple vowel sounds and four diph- 
thongs. By arranging the vowels in groups, each group 
consisting of three closely-related sounds, we are able to 
express them in practice by four signs; thus effecting a 
saving of eight special characters. The diphthongs, being 


expressed by the signs for the vowels which compose them, 
do not require any special signs. This means a saving of 
twelve characters; and yet the diphthongs are fully ex- 
pressed, and the vowels expressed with sufficient definiteness 
for all practical purposes. 

The total saving of special signs, then, for both vowels 
and consonants, is nineteen ! 

The Mental and Physical Gains. — This reduction in 
the number of characters used is a very great gain indeed. 
Obviously, the fewer the characters employed, the less 
mental and physical effort there will be in acquiring them, 
the less mental effort there will be in recalling them 
promptly, and the less physical effort there will be in 
writing them. Obviously, too, the fewer the characters 
employed, the more quickly will the process of writing them 
automatically be acquired. Mr. P. Deming, a distinguished 
author who was at one time a professional reporter, in ex- 
plaining why he did not use shorthand in his literary com- 
position attributed it to the fact that longhand consisted 
of just a few simple elements, while Pitmanic shorthand, 
being written in all directions, required a "continual choice 
from among twelve elements. " This "rapid choosing," he 
said, "among so many, is difficult and the work is complex; 
hence the writer has to give his attention to the form in 
writing them, and this continues to be true, however ex- 
tensive his experience in writing Phonography may be." 

He might have added that the number of fine distinctions 
— wholly theoretical distinctions, as I have shown — con- 
tributed in no small degree to hesitancy, difficulty, and 
complexity in the writing. 

To Sum Up. — Great and advantageous economies in 
the use of shorthand material for the consonants are ef- 
fected through the elimination of special joined signs for z, 
zh, the, w, y, h; and the diacritical marks provided for the 


exact indication of these sounds are not needed in thousands 
of pages of shorthand writing. Still greater and more ad- 
vantageous economies in the use of the shorthand material 
for the vowels are effected through the scientific grouping 
of similar vowel sounds; and the diacritical marks pro- 
vided for the indication of the exact shades of vowel sounds 
in each group are not needed in thousands of pages of 
shorthand writing. 1 

1 Several years ago, while I was still actively engaged in teaching, 
I telephoned to a very expert writer of the system — a man who had 
been engaged in highly technical shorthand work for several years 
— and asked him to substitute for me with an evening class of be- 
ginners. He consented to do so. The next day he came in to find 
out why I had introduced the diacritical marks to distinguish the 
shades of vowel sound. When I told him that they had always been 
a part of the system he was absolutely incredulous; and, in order 
to convince him, I had to show him the early editions of the sys- 
tem. Then he remarked with emphasis, "Well, perhaps I did learn 
them, but I have never used them and have never felt the need of 
them, although for years I have been doing very technical shorthand 
work with a firm of chemical manufacturers." 


In the two preceding chapters I discussed the "Sounds 
to be Expressed," and "Economies in the Use of Shorthand 
Material" to express these sounds. The next step is to 
ascertain the comparative values of the various sounds as 
shown by their frequency of occurrence. 

One of the claims put forth by authors of the earlier 
shorthand systems, as expressed by one of them, was that 
"the alphabet is founded on the allocation of the most fac- 
ile signs to the most frequently-recurring consonants." 
The same thought, expressed in slightly different language, 
occurs in nearly all the textbooks of the older shorthand 
systems. It would seem to be a very strong and a very 
reasonable position to take. But it ignores one very im- 
portant fact: that the individual value of a sign may be 
greatly affected by the frequency with which it is joined to 
some other sign or signs. 

The Combination Idea. — In speaking of the construc- 
tion of the alphabet in the preface to one of the editions of 
the Gregg Shorthand Manual, I referred to this theory as 

The real strength of Gregg Shorthand lies in its alphabet; 
all the rest is subsidiary. In his earlier efforts at shorthand 
construction, the author, adhering to the precedent of his 
predecessors, followed the false theory that the most facile 
characters must be assigned to the representation of the 
most frequent letters. He laboriously compiled statistics 
showing the comparative frequency of letters, or rather 
sounds, and devoted a great deal of time to scientific exper- 



iments with a view to determining the ease with which the 
various shorthand characters could be written. In these ex- 
periments the results of the investigations of others were of 
no value, as they had been made from a geometrical stand- 
point. The alphabets developed by these experiments were 
hopelessly inefficient, and he was, for a time, reluctantly 
forced to acknowledge the truth of the assertion so often 
made that it was impossible to construct a practical system 
of shorthand using the slope of longhand as a basis, and in 
which there should be neither shading nor position writing. 
When he was almost disheartened, there came to him a new 
idea, that the value oj a letter or a shorthand character is 
determined by its combination with other letters or charac- 
ters. From that idea has come a revolution in shorthand. 

The assignment to individual letters, as we have said, 
is of slight importance; the vital matter is the use made of 
the combination. Realizing the importance of the discovery 
he had made, and the vast potentialities that lay back of 
it, the most exhaustive experimental investigations were 
made to evolve an alphabet that would endure. The al- 
phabet of Gregg Shorthand has therefore been worked out 
on scientific principles deduced from a close analytical study 
of the combinations in the language and the movements used 
in ordinary writing. 

It is almost needless to say that a faulty allotment of the 
alphabetic characters would have entirely nullified in prac- 
tice the value of the natural principles which form the basis 
of the system. 

The Frequency of the Consonants. — I am sorry to 
say that the many tables on the frequency of letters and of 
combinations of letters which I compiled when engaged on 
the construction of the system were lost in the fire which 
destroyed my offices in Chicago in 1900. In planning this 
series I intended to make a new analysis and present the 
results, but it has been impossible for me to find time to do 
so. In any event, I believe that the figures given by other 
authors will be more effective than anything which I might 
personally submit. 


Mr. Lewis's Table. — In 1815 Mr. James Henry Lewis 
gave the values of the consonants in this order: 

s, t, n, h, r, I, d, j, m, w, g, y, p, b, v, k, j, q, x, z. 

The figures compiled by the authors of the early English 
systems are not of much value now, as they were based 
on the ordinary spelling, instead of the phonetic sounds. 
It will be quite apparent that h, for instance, which is 
placed fourth in Mr. Lewis's list, would be very near the 
end of the list in an analysis on a phonetic basis: it would 
be very greatly reduced in value by including it in sh, ch, th, 
wh, and through ph being expressed by /; and its value 
would be still further reduced by its omission in words 
like honor, laugh, etc., in which it is silent. 

The great value placed upon h by the early authors is 
probably responsible for the extraordinary consideration 
with which that unimportant letter is treated in Isaac Pit- 
man's Shorthand, in having no less than four methods of 
representation assigned to it! As mentioned previously, 
Isaac Pitman had written the old Taylor system for seven 
years before attempting to construct an improvement on 
it; and to this day the compound sign used for h in the 
Taylor system — a circle attached to a downward, oblique 
stroke — survives in the Isaac Pitman system as one of the 
four ways in which h is expressed. 

The value assigned to w, g, and k, in the Lewis table 
would also be affected by a change from an alphabetic to a 
phonetic basis; w as a part of wh; g as a part of ng and gh; 
k as a part of x {ks) , and so on. 

Isaac Pitman's Table. — In an address on "The Science 
of Shorthand," delivered before The Shorthand Society, 
London, in 1884, (printed in the Phonetic Journal, 12 July, 
1884, and Shorthand, Vol. II., No. 17) Isaac Pitman said: 


I took the Leisure Hour for 1873, containing a variety of 
papers by various writers, and counted the occurrence of the 
letters or sounds in the first line of fifty-five columns. The 
experiment carried my calculation to a little over one hun- 
dred for the most frequent sounds. If I had pursued the 
subject to the extent of one thousand, the results would not 
have been different, for they agree with all my experience 
as a writer of shorthand. . . . The frequency of the letters 
is in this order, ranging from 110 to 0: 
r 110, s 102, t 97, n 86, p 72, I 48, k 46, / 41, m 31, th 
sh 17, w 13, h 11, ng 7, y 0. 

Unfortunately, the report of his address does not men- 
tion b, d, v, g, ;, z; so this table of values is not complete, 
but from an article by Mr. Pitman in his Phonotypic Jour- 
nal, September, 1843, we are able to obtain more com- 
plete data. The article was entitled, "On Phonetic Print- 
ing," and was for the purpose of setting forth one of his 
many plans for a scheme of phonetic type to supersede the 
letters used in ordinary printing. He said the figures were 
obtained by counting the sounds in " The Vision of Mirza " 
{Spectator, No. 159), and were as follows: 

n 429, t 422, r 384, d 334, s 282, th (as in that) 276, I 205, 
z 189, m 183, v 146, h 136, p 135, k 125, / 106, b 97, ng 74, 
ch 49, sh 40, th (as in thin) 39, ; 34, zh 7. 

(Total sounds, 3731.) 

It will be seen that this table of occurrences differs very 
materially from the one given forty-one years later. For 
instance, s is relegated to fifth place — below d! — and r is 
reduced from first to third place. Perhaps this is due to the 
nature of the articles selected — and in both instances the 
articles were very short. 

Mr. Guest's Table. — In the preface to his "Compen- 
dious Shorthand," Mr. Edwin Guest, in 1883, gave the let- 
ters on a phonetic basis in this order: 

s, l, n, r, I, m, d, k, w, f, p, b, x, v, g, j s z, y, q. 


Mr. Guest did not mention h, sh, ch, th, ng. 

Mr. Lockett's Table. — About the same time Mr. A. B. 
Lockett gave them as follows: 

s, t, n, r, I, d, k, m, p, w, j, b, g, v, sh, ch, ng, j, y. 

Mr. Lockett omitted h, th, w } z. 

Omitting the letter h (for the reasons already explained) 
from the Lewis table, it will be seen that Lewis, Guest, and 
Lockett are in absolute accord as to the order of frequency 
of the first four consonants — s, t, n, r. In 1884 Isaac Pit- 
man placed r first, but he gave the other letters in the same 
order as Lewis, Guest, and Lockett; in 1843 he placed n 
first, followed by t, r, d. 

Mr. Cross's Table. — Mr. J. George Cross, author of 
"Eclectic Shorthand," in 1892, gave the following table 
based on an analysis of 3000 words: 

n 163, r 144, t 137, s 85, z 81, d 80, th 80, I 76, ra 67, b 53, 
k 52, p 40, v 37, / 36, h 24, g 22, w 22, ; 18, ch 16, y 12, sh 11, 
wh 5, ng 4, zh 3, q 3, x 1. 

It is important to remember that Mr. Cross's system 
is partly orthographic and partly phonetic. Some of the 
figures given by Mr. Cross are surprising ; particularly those 
regarding s, z, and th. 

Mr. Lindsley's Table. — In 1885 Mr. D. P. Lindsley, 
author of "Takigrafy," published a very interesting table 
which he said had been prepared by Mr. H. T. Beach from 
a careful analysis of twelve selections from different au- 
thors, each selection containing about 450 words. "The 
number of words in the twelve selections was 5,452; the en- 
tire number of sounds used in expressing them, 12,943, mak- 
ing an average of three and seven hundred sixty-five 
thousandths sounds to the word." 

t 1477, r 1460, n 1449, s 1007, d 893, I 857, th 747, z 578, 
m 555, k 503, v 440, w 430, p 407, h 403, / 388, b 343, ng 199, 


g 164, sh 157, y 143, ch 127, th (ith) 107, ; 102, zh 7. 

Note: wh is given as 86; but it is stated that it should be 
eliminated, since it is also included under w and h respec- 

Mr. Guest seems to have made the most careful investi- 
gation of any of the authors mentioned, and I am therefore 
going to quote what he said on the subject: 

The author found a general consensus of opinion among 
inventors that the most frequently-used letters should have 
the easiest lines, but the analysis of their alphabets con- 
stantly revealed the strangest departures from the prin- 
ciple enunciated. The frequency of letters and the facility 
of lines were equally matters of guess, to a certain extent, 
or if any attempts were made to ascertain either, they were 
made in so unscientific a manner as to be scarcely worthy of 

The present writer was therefore compelled to resort to 
the laborious process of actual counting to obtain his data. 
Short extracts from Shakespeare, Bacon, Locke, Milton, 
Addison, Dr. Johnson, Hazlitt, Macaulay, Carlyle, Ruskin, 
and Kingsley; and passages from the speeches of Canning, 
Shiel, Lord Beaconsfield, Lord Derby, Dean Stanley, Mr. 
Bright, Mr. Gladstone and other orators were counted; 
poetry, prose, religion, history 7 , politics, ethics, and science 
all being represented; with the result that in 10.000 words 
(and, of, and the being left out because these common words 
have in most systems special marks) s was found to recur 
2,886 times, t 2,700 times, n 2,543 times, r 2,175 times, I 
1,316 times, and so forth down to ;, ch, y, and q, which re- 
curred only 198, 177, 168, and 33 times respectively. The 
necessary equations having been made on account of ks rep- 
resenting x; ph, j, etc., the proportionate recurrences of the 
consonants stand thus: s 100, t 95, n 90, r 74, I 46, m 41, d 40, 
th 33, k 26, w 25, / 25, etc., down to ; 7, ch 6, y 6, and q 1. 
Thus, s, t, n, r, occur 359 times in the aggregate to ;, ch, y, 
q, 20 times. Hence there is an obvious advantage in giving 
to the first four the best possible lines, and in making the last 
four wait until all the rest have been accommodated. 


How "Pairing" Affects Values. — In considering these 
tables, it is important to keep in mind that where the let- 
ters are arranged in phonetic pairs — p, b; t, d; etc. — and 
are represented by the same character (distinguished either 
by thickness or by length) their importance is increased 
or decreased in exact ratio to the combined frequency of 
both letters. For example, the consonant s, which is given 
first place in three of the above tables, has a very un- 
important cognate, z, while t has for its cognate, d y which is 
placed fourth in one table, sixth in two of the tables, and 
seventh in another ; and r, which in our system and in many 
others, has as a cognate I, is placed fifth in four of the 
tables, and seventh in one table. 

It seems strange that, in all tables that I have mentioned, 
this very important factor in the evaluation of the sounds 
appears to have received no consideration. 

The Application of Mr. Guest's Figures. — Applying 
this principle to Mr. Guest's evaluation of the individual 
letters, we get some interesting results; thus: 


t 95; d 40 135 

n 90; m 41 131 

r 74; Z 46 120 

s 100; z (say) 5 105 

With these figures before you, it will be interesting to 
see what bearing they have on certain important features 
in our system. 

Lineality: The great importance of a lineal, continuous 
movement was set forth in a previous chapter. According 
to Mr. Guest, the letters n, m, r, I, which are represented 
by horizontal characters in our system, total 251. To 
these add k and g. Since k is valued at 26, and as g is 
placed by Mr. Guest after /, which he values at 25, and 


ahead of j which he values at 7, we may assume his val- 
uation of it to be about 15, making a total for k and g of 
41. The total for horizontal letters is thus 292. (This 
total would be further increased by the inclusion of ng, nk, 
which keep close to the horizontal.) 

Balance: Another important element in shorthand con- 
struction is the preservation of an equable balance between 
upward and downward characters. Applying Mr. Guest's 
figures to the letters represented in our system by upward 
and downward characters, we get some interesting results. 

The letters represented by downward characters are: 


s 100; z (say) 5 105 

/ 25; v (say) 5 35 

;' 7; ch 6; sh (say) 10 23 

p 12; b 8 20 


The letters represented by upward characters are: 


^ 95; d4Q 135 

th 33 


It will be seen from this that there is an almost perfect 
balance in our system between upward and downward 
characters; and by comparing these figures with those 
given for the horizontal characters, it will be seen that the 
horizontal characters almost equal the combined total of 
upward and downward characters. 

In reality the very slight advantage for the downward 
characters is more apparent than real, on account of the 
minute size of s. It should be remembered that t and d, 


although classed as upward characters, are onward, for- 
ward characters; and that t, which has more than double 
the frequency value of d, is a very short upward character. 

Another factor in making for both balance and lineality 
is the frequency with which t and d are used at the end 
of words after downward characters, particularly in form- 
ing the past tense. The outlines for the following words 
will illustrate this and will suggest innumerable other ex- 
amples: smashed, reached, pledged, alleged, raved, saved, 
leaped, bribed, peeped. 

The Cross and Lindsley tables are more complete than 
the others, and they give actual figures for all the sounds 
or letters. Lindsley 's table is based on a purely phonetic 
analysis of 5,452 words; and Cross's is based on an analysis 
— mainly phonetic — of 3,000 words. 

The Application of Mr. Lindsley's Figures. — Mr. 
Lindsley's values, when the letters are paired, are as fol- 


t 1477; d 893 2370 

r 1460; I 857 2317 

n 1449; m 555 2004 

s 1007; z 578 1585 

th 747; th 107 854 

/ 388; v 440 828 

p 407; b 343 750 

h 503; g 164 667 

sh 157; ch 127; ; 102; zh 7 393 

Lineality: Based on Mr. Lindsley's table, the horizon- 
tal characters in our system — n, m, r, I, k, g — total 4,988. 

Balance: The downward characters — s, z, f, v, p, b, sh, 
zh, ch, j — total 3,556. The upward characters — t, d, th — 
total 3,224. 

A comparison of these figures with those of Mr. Guest 


will reveal remarkably close net results. Mr. Lindsley's 
figures illustrate the almost perfect balance between upward 
and downward characters in our system, even when the 
figures are based on an analysis of 12,943 sounds, occur- 
ring in 5,452 words. What we have said about the onward 
character of t and d (although they are classed as upward 
characters) should be kept in mind; and also the fact that 
s and z are expressed by a very short downward character. 
The Application of Mr. Pitman's Figures. — Isaac 
Pitman's values, in his 1843 article, show the following re- 
sults when the letters are paired: 


£422; d3U 756 

n 429; fit 183 612 

r 384; I 205 589 

$282; z 189 471 

th 276; dh 39 315 

/ 106; v. 146 252 

V 135; b 97 232 

k 125; g 39 164 

ch 49; ; 34 83 

sh 40; zh 7 47 

Lineality: According to Mr. Pitman, the horizontal 
letters in our system — n, m, r, I, fc, g — total 1,365. 

Balance: The downward characters — s, z, f, v, p, b, ch, j, 
sh y zh — total 1,085. The upward characters — t, d, th — total 

It will be seen that, according to Mr. Pitman's figures, 
there is an almost perfect balance between the upward and 
downward characters in our system. It will also be seen 
that there is a much higher percentage of lineal movement 
than either upward or downward movement. 

The Application of Mr. Cross's Figures. — Mr. Cross's 
values, when the letters are paired, are as follows: 



n 163; m 67 230 

r 144; I 76 220 

t 137; d 80 217 

s 85; z 81 166 

V 40; b 53 93 

th 80 80 

h 52; fir 22 74 

/36; i;37 73 

s/i 11; z/i 3; c/i 16; ; 18 48 

Lineality: Based on this table, the horizontal characters 
in our system — n, m, r, I, k, g — total 542. 

Balance: The downward characters — s, z, p, b, f, v, sh, 
zh, ch, j — total 380; the upward characters — t, d, th — 
total 297. 

From Mr. Cross's figures it will also be seen that there is 
a very close balance in our system between upward and 
downward characters — especially when the minute charac- 
ter of s and z is considered. It will also be seen that once 
more the horizontal characters almost equal the combined 
total of upward and downward characters. Bear in mind, 
too, what was said about the onward nature of t and d. 
In Mr. Cross's table, too, the letter t, which is expressed 
by a very short upward character in our system, is given al- 
most double the value of d. 

Natural Movement: Still another factor, and one of 
equal importance, is the use made of the movement that is 
most frequent in longhand — the movement embodied in the 
small longhand forms of the vowels, a, e, i, o, u y and in the 
small forms of nearly all the consonants. It will be seen 
that r, ( I, p, b y which are written with that motion in our 
system, have a total of 313, while k, g, /, v, characters with 
the opposite movement, which is much less frequent in long- 
hand, have a total of less than one-half that number — 147. 


I shall have occasion to refer to some of these factors in 
explaining the construction of the alphabet. 

Since writing the foregoing I came across another table 
prepared by Sir Edward Clarke, K. C. In the preface to 
his system, "Easy Shorthand," Sir Edward says: 

The result obtained from a careful examination of a large 
number of passages from different books is that the twelve 
symbols we require to use most often are those representing 
the following consonants, in their order of frequency: s, n, 
t, r, d, j, I, m, p, b, g, k. 

The table is not complete and is given merely as a matter 
of record. 

The Frequency of the Vowels. — While I have given 
tables compiled by several authors about the compara- 
tive values of the various consonants, I am unable to do so 
with regard to the vowels. The reason for this is the scant 
consideration given to the vowels in the older systems. 
There was no need to give much attention to the fre- 
quency-value of the vowels in the construction of systems 
in which vowels were expressed, if expressed at all, by dots 
or by dots and dashes, since they were all on an equality in 
the physical effort of executing them. 

I am, therefore, especially sorry that the tables I had 
compiled were lost in the fire which destroyed my offices 
in 1900. The figures about the frequency of the various 
vowels woitld be of great interest and importance in deal- 
ing with the allocation of the signs for the vowels. For- 
tunately, I remember, in a general way at least, the results 
of my investigations of the occurrences of the vowels more 
vividly than those of the consonants, because they were 
responsible for the radical change which I made in the 
manner of using the circles and hooks for the expression of 
the vowel sounds. 


I found that i (as in it) was by far the most frequent 
sound in the language. As I remember it, the figures 
showed that this sound occurred almost twice as often as 
any other vowel sound, and occurred as frequently as 
all the vowel sounds of a combined! Next in importance 
to short i were short e and the short a, with very little 
difference in value; next came the long e and the long a, 
and here again there was a little difference. The sound of 
a, as in arm, was not very common. Next to these came 
the short o as in hot, and the long o as in no, with little 
difference in value between them. The sound of aw was 
was much less frequent. The sound of u as in up was al- 
most as frequent as o, but short oo and long oo were low in 
the scale. 

Briefly stated: when grouped, the three vowels, short i, 
short e, and long e, had fully twice the value of the three 
sounds of a; the three sounds of a were at least one-third 
more frequent than the o vowels; the o vowels were about 
one-third more frequent than the short u, short oo, and 
long oo. 

Although about thirty-five years have passed since I 
compiled these figures, I believe that any scientific investi- 
gation of the frequency of occurrence of the vowel sounds 
will show that my recollection of them is very close to the 
actual values. 

The question remains — if the vowels are to be written in 
the outline, how shall they be represented? 

I believe that many authors of joined- vowel systems 
have failed to achieve their object because they did not 
reach a sound judgment on this point. Through long prac- 
tice of disjoined- vowel shorthand, many authors have at- 
tempted to retain certain facile characters for the repre- 
sentation of frequent consonants and were then forced to 
adopt less facile material for the expression of the vowels — 


with disastrous results. It seems to me to be very obvious 
that if the vowels are to be written in the outline, the most 
facile of all shorthand signs should be used for their expres- 
sion. The frequency and the very nature of vowels render 
that imperative. 
As Mr. D. Kimball put it: 

Consonants are to a word what the bones are to the 
body — the large, strong framework. Vowels are to words 
what the flesh is to the body: they give to them form, flex- 
ibility, volume. It is desirable that the two classes of sounds 
should be represented by letters readily distinguishable. To 
the consonants should be assigned large letters, and it is 
best that the vowels should be represented by small letters. 

In a previous chapter the story of the evolution from 
strokes to circles and hooks for the expression of the vowels 
was told, in part at least, and particularly in the quotation 
from M. J. P. A. Martin. I shall have more to say about 
the matter when I explain the construction of the alphabet 
of the system. 





A compound character should never be used in a system 
until all the simple lines of nature are exhausted. 

History of Shorthand. — James H. Lewis 

Related letters should have related signs, which may be 
differentiated by length or thickness; the single consonant 
character should consist of a single stroke or curve. 

— Edward Pocknell 

As a general rule, sounds within a determined degree of 
likeness should be represented by signs within a determined 
degree of likeness. 

— Edwin Guest 

Three of the seven basic principles discussed in previous 
chapters do not call for further comment in explaining the 
construction of the alphabet. These three principles are: 
the longhand slope of the characters, the elimination of 
shading, and the elimination of position writing. If these 
are accepted as fundamental principles, they are not af- 
fected by the selection or allocation of the characters; nor 
is the selection or allocation of the characters affected by 
them except that they exclude from consideration shaded 
characters, vertical characters, and backslope characters. 

The other four basic principles require discussion be- 
cause they are susceptible to varying methods of treatment. 
As it is possible to express joined vowels in many 



different ways, it is necessary to discuss the method in 
which their expression in our system differs from that of 
other joined-vowel systems. Obviously, too, as the 
allocation of the characters to the letters in the alphabet 
will determine the degree of lineality, of curvilinear motion, 
and the frequency of obtuse angles, in the writing, these 
features require discussion. 

The Governing Factors. — Anyone who has given the 
alphabet of the system and the combinations of the al- 
phabet any thought will have realized that there were three 
factors which governed the selection of characters to repre- 
sent the consonants. Those three factors were: (1) curvi- 
linear motion, as expressed in the oval; (2) the elimina- 
tion of the obtuse angle through the blending principle; 
(3) lineality. With the first two of these I was entering 
upon untrodden fields, since they were absolutely new 
theories in shorthand construction — and yet they were 
simple, natural, logical. 

The formulation of these two principles was the culmi- 
nation of a long series of more or less empirical efforts 
at system construction. I believed that these principles 
were extremely important discoveries — so important that 
I determined to test both of them with every possible 
combination of letters before making the allocation of 
the characters. 

The Ellipse Analyzed. — It seems to me that the 
best way to begin an exposition of the construction of 
the alphabet is to go back to the foundation. As ex- 
plained in the first article of this series, the system is 
based, primarily, on the elements of longhand writing; and 
the basis of longhand writing is the oval or ellipse. The 
first thing to do, then, is to analyze the ellipse. 

It is very easy to ascertain the elements of the ellipse. If 
you write the ordinary longhand letter o } and dissect it, 


you will see that it is composed of five elements — the 
downward curve, the turn at the bottom, the upward curve, 
the small circle or oval, and the connecting stroke. 

Now write the entire alphabet in the small letters of 
longhand, and count the letters in which that lower turn 
(which expresses r in our system) is to be found. You will 
find that the lower turn occurs in no less than nineteen of 
the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. The exceptions are 
h, J, rn, n, p, s, and z; and you will notice that the connect- 
ing stroke after four of these letters is made with the 
lower turn. It is important to note that every vowel-sign 
in longhand contains that lower turn; and in one of them 
(u) it occurs twice. Furthermore, the connecting stroke 
after every vowel contains it. 

Carry the inquiry a little farther, and you will notice that 
the first two elements of the oval or ellipse (see illustra- 
tion No. 1) occur in combination in nearly every letter of 
the alphabet. 

^ ^ ■/ (f~ ~tfc 

I do not think that I need to point out the importance of 
the facts disclosed by this analysis. In themselves they 


furnish an acid test that may be applied to any system 
founded on the longhand-movement basis. (It is well, how- 
ever, to keep in mind two points mentioned in a previous 
article: the importance of the combination, and the im- 
portance of the phonetic pairs of letters.) 

That I was blind to this important truth at the time of 
one of my earlier efforts at shorthand construction ("Script 
Phonography") is shown by the fact that I allocated 
that most facile character, the lower turn, to the represen- 
tation of k — one of the least frequent consonants in the 
language — and on a smaller scale (as a hook), to the least- 
frequent group of vowels. 

Reverting for a moment to the analysis of the longhand 
alphabet: it is important to keep in mind that the upward 
turn occurs only in h, m, n, p, z. The use made of this less- 
valuable element in assigning characters to the consonants 
and vowels will be explained later. The predominance 
of the other motion, on account of its being used in all but 
seven consonants, and in all the vowels, explains why most 
people, when they attempt to write rapidly in longhand, 
have difficulty in distinguishing n from u; and why the 
forms of other letters, such as m, p } which contain the up- 
ward turn, show the same tendency. Speaking of this ten- 
dency, in his address as President of the Shorthand 
Society, London, Mr. Theodore R. Wright said: "That 
this curve is one of the easiest to form is proved by the 
well-known fact that in rapid writing u's and n's are 
very commonly made alike. On examination, however, 
I believe it will invariably be found that this arises 
from the n being made like u, never from u being made 
like »." 

In a series of lessons entitled "Commercial Penmanship: 
How to Acquire a Free and Fluent Style" (Pitman's Jour- 
nal, March 30, 1918), Mr. G. C. Jarvis, B. A., said: 


Of all the twenty-six letters of the alphabet small e and 
small i are the simplest in outline and the quickest made. 
. . . Words like mamma, mawk, and now take much longer 
to write than words like level, eels, and lee. 

This quotation emphasizes in a striking way the points 
I have been trying to explain. 

The Selection and Allocation of Material. — R and L. 
The reason why I assigned the facile downward curve to 
the very frequent letters, r and I, is now fairly obvious. 
As shown by the tables given in the preceding article, r 
is one of three most frequent letters in the language; 
and while I is not so frequent, the pairing of these letters 
gives great frequency to the character (short and long) 
used to express them. The liquids r and I coalesce with 
other letters to form "consonantal diphthongs," as they 
have been termed — pr, pi, br, bl, fr, fl, kt, t kl, gr, gl, etc. — 
and this has been so well recognized that in many systems 
purely arbitrary, and sometimes very illogical, methods of 
expression have been adopted for such combinations. In 
Pitman's Shorthand, for example, in writing the simple word 
apple, a hook for I is written, then the p, and finally the dot 
for the vowel, so that the exact order in which the letters 
for apple are written is l-p-a! Isaac Pitman & Sons, Hand- 
book for Shorthand Teachers, has this candid statement: 
"Another difficulty with regard to initial hooks is that of 
making the pupils understand that the r and I are to be 
read after and not before the consonant to which the 
hook is attached. The tendency among beginners is to read 
them in the wrong order." 

It follows from what we have said that the lower turn, 
which occurs in nearly all the letters of longhand, joins 
easily with characters founded on longhand, if the charac- 
ters have been selected with that end in view, and the 


allocation of that lower turn to r and I is, therefore, both 
logical and eminently practical. 

The pairing of the liquids is logical, natural, and very 
practical. They are paired in two of the most sucess- 
ful of modern systems — Duploye and Stolze, in Eclectic 
Shorthand by J. George Cross, in Edeography by F. Red- 
fern, in Lucid Shorthand by William George Spencer, 
(father of the great English philosopher and scientist, Her- 
bert Spencer) in British Phonography, by Edward J. Jones 
— as well as many others. Mr. Hugh B. Innes, LL. B., in 
The Office (London, June 15, 1889), said: 

In Stolze I and r are circles of different sizes, while in my 
own acquaintance with Gurney, I find that r and I written 
carelessly are remarkably alike, and that coalescing r 
may be, and in the examples of the published handbook of- 
ten is, omitted without causing any trouble. In Taylor, the 
two letters are clearly distinguished by a loop, but in hurried 
Phonography the upward I and r bear a striking resem- 
blance to one another and the two sizes of hooks by which 
these letters are affixed to a group are not easily distin- 

The point mentioned by Mr. Innes about r and I being 
paired in Isaac Pitman Shorthand in the case of the small 
and large hooks before curves is ignored by Pitman 
advocates, just as is the fact that in practical writing 5 
and z are expressed by the same sign — a circle; and that 
sh and zh are expressed alike in a great many words. 

Some of the pairings in Pitmanic shorthand are ab- 
solutely indefensible. In Isaac Pitman, Benn Pitman, and 
Graham, mp is paired with m; in Isaac Pitman's early edi- 
tions, and in Benn Pitman, Graham, and other Pitmanic 
"styles," the downward I is paired with y and downward r 
with w; while Munson pairs m with hi Mr. D. L. Scott- 


Browne, editor of Browne's Phonographic Monthly, said: 

"Mr. Munson insists that the sign for h employed by 
Benn Pitman, Graham, etc., and that used for the same 
purpose by Isaac Pitman, is unphilosophical because they 
introduce compound signs where harmony requires a simple 
one ; and so far as that is concerned, he is right." 

P and B. Starting with the combination idea, and bas- 
ing that idea on the elements of the ellipse or oval, it did 
not require any great amount of thought to decide upon the 
allocation of the downward left curve to p and b, since that 
curve precedes the lower turn in a, e, o, etc., in longhand, 

thus providing the constantly-recurring pr, pi, br, bl, with 
easy, natural, graceful combinations. So easy is that move- 
ment that it requires very little more effort to make any of 
these combinations than it does to make the lower turn 
alone. If you will look at a page of the writing in the 
system you will be impressed with the grace and beauty 
which these combinations give to the writing. 

In view of the natural, effortless character of the com- 
bination used for pr, etc., it is simply amazing how little 
use has been made of it in the older systems. Consider 
what it represents in other well-known systems: in Pitmanic 
shorthand it expresses In (and only one of the forms for 
In) , as in alone and one or two other infrequent words ; in 
Duploye, and in the numerous adaptations of Duploye to 
English by Pernin, Sloan, Brandt, Perrault, and others, it 
expresses w-s — two letters which do not combine without 
an intervening vowel; in Script Phonography it represents 
ch-k or j-k, which do not combine without an interven- 


ing vowel. Similar illustrations could be given from other 

K and G. The upward turn, found in the longhand signs 
for m, n, p, h, z, being much less frequent than the down- 
ward curve, was assigned to k, g, because these letters are 
much less frequent than r or I. In making this alloca- 
tion, I had in mind the fact that in a large percentage of the 
cases where k or g do occur, they are in conjunction with 
either r or I, as kr (cr), kl (cl) , gr, gl, and by this alloca- 
tion these combinations are expressed by easy curve com- 

F and V. The letters / and v are not frequent; hence, 
the less useful right curve, which occurs in the longhand 
v and z h is used for them. By the allocation made to / 
and v one of the most graceful combinations in the system 
— /r, fl, vr, vl — was obtained, a combination that occurs in 
writing v and other letters in longhand. The selection of 
the characters for f, v was influenced to some extent by the 
possibility of securing the "egg-shaped" blends which are 
used for dej, dev, tive. 

In a preceding paragraph I mentioned the failure of 
authors of older systems to appreciate the value of the 
simple, natural combination used in our system for pr, br, 
etc. It seems to me to be equally remarkable that the 
combination used in our system for jr was not used for 
any purpose in any of the many hundreds of systems that 
have appeared since shorthand history began. It is not, per- 
haps, surprising that the angle was not eliminated in geo- 
metric systems, but it is surprising that systems on the 
longhand basis did not blend these characters, as is done in 
our system. Probably the reason is to be found in the fact 
that in previous systems the curve used in our system for /, 
v was assigned to letters which do not combine in speech 
with those expressed by the horizontal downward curve. 


Sh, Ch, J. The straight, downward line is easy to write 
independently, but as Mr. Callendar said, it is rigid and 
inelastic when joined to other characters, hence its as- 
signment to sh, ch, j, which are not frequently-occurring 

I have always thought that I was particularly fortunate 
in the grouping of sh, ch, j. It is well known that it is much 
easier to control the length of downward straight lines 
than it is to control onward lines. The distinction between 
sh, ch, and ; can be maintained very easily — the tick for 
sh being a mere drop of the pen, such as is used in the first 
part of the bookkeeper's check mark. The beauty of it is 
that even when the distinction is not observed there is no 
trouble in reading the forms correctly. If French becomes 
Frensh, or even jrenj, it does not matter in the least. 
Hundreds of other illustrations are already familiar to you. 

The expression of sh and zh and ch and ; by entirely 
different characters (although the sounds are closely re- 
lated) has created one of the most troublesome of the many 
problems with which Pitmanic authors have had to deal. 
To show how serious this problem has been, I quote the 
following from Benn Pitman's "Life and Labors of Sir 
Isaac Pitman": 

Phoneticians have abundant reason for thinking that after 
fifty years of investigation and discussion, pioneered by 
Sir Isaac Pitman, they have settled a great many perplexing 
questions of use, practice, and application; nevertheless, 
there are opinions still held by intelligent persons which, from 
their standpoints, may be regarded as yet unsettled. 

For example, do we use ch or sh as the terminal sound in 
the words French, bunch, pinch, filch, etc.? It is amusing 
to find so great a stickler for the right thing as Isaac Pit- 
man — and "right" with him had a moral side to it, and meant 
more than "correct," — giving sh in his Phonographic Dic- 
tionary for 1846, ch in the edition of 1850, sh in the edi- 


tion of 1852, sh in the edition of 1867, and ch in the 1878 and 
subsequent editions, as the correct pronunciation of this 
class of words. But with seeming inconsistency, sh contin- 
ued to be used in a few words, as filch, Welch, in editions of 
his dictionary, as late as 1883, 1891, and 1893. H. T. Jansen 
(Exeter, England), one of our early patrons and phonetic 
enthusiasts, whose opinion Isaac Pitman ranked with that 
of Dr. Ellis, Dr. William Gregory, Sir Walter Trevelyan, 
and a few others of his earlier advisers, insisted that it was 
"simply absurd" to write this class of words with other 
than sh as the terminal sound. Dr. Gregory (Edinburgh) 
characterized the use of ch in these words as "the greatest 
absurdity possible." 

It seems to me that there could not be a stronger en- 
dorsement of the method of expressing sh and ch by the 
same character differing slightly in length, than is con- 
tained in this quotation from Benn Pitman; nor could 
there be a more convincing argument against expressing 
them by entirely different characters. Just consider the 
perplexity of the ordinary student when Isaac Pitman, after 
many years of close study of phonetics, and with the assist- 
ance of the greatest authorities on the subject, could not 
tell definitely whether a word should be written with sh 
or ch — sounds which are represented in his system by en- 
tirely different characters. 

In our system the student is relieved of that problem. 
My observation is that in such words the student of our 
system follows the ordinary spelling instinctively and makes 
the characters ch length. Anyway, he is never bothered 
about it one way or another. 

There are other reasons why the allocation of the straight 
oblique stroke to sh, ch, j, seems to me to have been ex- 
tremely felicitous. As sh expresses shun, that very common 
termination is disposed of by a facile downward tick that 
joins easily after all characters. If you have studied Pit- 


man's Shorthand you will probably remember the numerous 
rules (and exceptions to rules) governing the use of the 
large shun hook. Pitman's "Centenary Instructor" con- 
tains several pages devoted to shun, and Taylor's "Commen- 
tary on Pitman's Shorthand" devotes no less than fifteen 
pages in small type to that momentous subject! In our 
system it is disposed of in four words: "Write sh for shun." 

Again if a careless writer occasionally writes s without 
curving it, the s may resemble sh. In that event, s-k-e-m 
(scheme) will be read as sh-k-e-m, disguise as dish-guise — 
and there can be no misreading. Of course, the inclusion 
of the vowels in the outline is largely responsible for the 
legibility of the forms in such cases. 

The combinations sht, shd, cht, chd, jt, jd, are very fre- 
quent at the end of words; thus, lashed, reached, matched, 
preached, beached, wished, lodged, and they are all easily 
expressed. These are eixtremely facile combinations in 
themselves, but they also preserve balance between the up- 
ward and downward characters by bringing the hand back 
to the line of writing. Take the word alleged, for instance: 
the downward stroke j is followed by the upward stroke 
d, which brings the hand back to the line without an "in- 
effectual movement of the pen." If you write in our sys- 
tem, "It is alleged that he preached," you will see the great 
advantage derived from this arrangement of these charac- 

The manner in which the blending for gent, gend (to 
which pent anc pend were added) , thus balancing dej, dev, 
tive, was secured by this allocation of the downward 
straight lines does not require explanation. 

S and Z. The expression of s was one of the greatest of 
my problems in the construction of the alphabet. The let- 
ter s is an exceedingly common letter, and it is constantly 
used in conjunction with every other letter. Above all 


other letters, therefore, s demanded flexibility. In conso- 
nance with the curvilinear theory, it ought to be represented 
by a curve; but a full-size curve for such a common letter 
would militate against compactness and facility in many 

My experience with three adaptations of Duploye had 
impressed me with the mobility of the little "quadrants" 
used in Duploye for the ever-recurring nasal sounds of 
French, an, en, in, on, un. These signs are not very useful 
in English for the purpose to which they are applied in 
French (which is one of the weak points in adaptations of 
the French system to English), but their selection for the 
expression of the all-important nasal sounds of French 
made a deep impression on me. I do not suppose I should 
have paid much attention to them if I had known only the 
Pernin or Sloan adaptations of Duploye. It was when I 
mastered the adaptation by J. P. A. Martin, which adhered 
very closely to the plan of using the quadrants as in the 
original Duploye, that the value of these signs became 
apparent to me. 

So little did I value them in my earlier efforts at short- 
hand construction that I assigned no less than four of them 
(written downward in all directions) to the almost useless 
h! What was still worse, I assigned two of them (written 
upward) to n. That was primitive, indeed, because it ap- 
parently ranked h as of greater importance than n! Even 
if only two downward quadrants had been assigned to h 
it would have ranked the aspirate higher than n, be- 
cause the downward quadrants are more easily made than 
those written upward. A little experimentation will show 
that in writing upward characters, particularly curves, the 
pen is held more rigidly than in writing downward charac- 
ters. The downward curves are written with much greater 
flexibility, and usually with much greater curvature, than 


upward curves. The downward quadrants are not only 
more flexible but they join easily with other characters, 
while the small upward quadrants join awkwardly to many 
characters, except at the beginning and end of words, and 
should, therefore, be used for the representation of com- 
paratively infrequent letters. 

(Incidentally, the word "quadrant" is an incorrect word 
to use in speaking of these small curves in our system. 
A "quadrant" is a "quarter circle," and w T hile it is a cor- 
rect description of these small curves in the Duployan 
and other geometric systems founded on the circle and its 
segments, the small curves used for s and th in our system 
are not "quarter circles," but halves of small ellipses.) 

The facile, flexible little curves were assigned to s and 
z; and naturally the downward curves were given the pref- 
erence. How admirably these little curves join to other 
characters, and with what little pen effort, is known to 
every writer of the system. 

At this point it may be well to point out that the inser- 
tion of the vowels has a great bearing on the value of these 
signs. Sometimes a writer of another system, in giving our 
system a hasty examination, jumps to the conclusion that s 
will clash with p or with / in rapid writing when the dis- 
tinction of size is not observed. Sometimes they would — 
if it were not for the joined vowels. What I mean is that if 
s is written very carelessly — both as to size and shape — so 
that sp appears as pp, it does not make any material differ- 
ence. Why? Because the reader knows that pp cannot occur 
without an intervening vowel. The outline could not be read 
peep, pap, pop, Pope, pup, poop, pipe, simply because the 
vowel would be written in each of these words. For the 
same reason sj could not be fj — and so on with all the other 

There is another difference: since s is a very minute 


character, there is a rule that the downward consonant fol- 
lowing s rests on the line; therefore, if the s is made as 
large as p in writing sp, the fact that the second character 
rests on the line shows that it is sp, not pp. The writer does 
that automatically. 

In addition to all this, as writers of the system know, 
there is a distinctiveness about the deep curvature of the 
minute form for s in practical writing that is quite re- 

I have previously spoken of the analogy of both sound 
and sign existing between s and sh — a scientific point worth 
noting, in connection with the representation of s. 

Th. The less facile little upward curve was assigned to 
th, and its analogy, both in sign and sound, to t is already 
clear to you. 

At the period of my earlier experiments I was largely 
influenced by my enthusiasm for Duploye, and therefore 
inclined to undervalue th. As this sound does not occur in 
French, there was, of course, no provision for it in the 
original Duploye. All of the adaptations of Duploye to 
English (except that of Brandt, with which I was not then 
acquainted) expressed th by the sign for t with a dot over it. 

In practice the dot w r as dropped, and such words as debt 
and death, bat and bath, tin and thin, tea and thee, toes and 
those, tick and thick, were expressed by the same outlines. 
Yet full provision was made for sh because that sound is 
important in French, w T hile j was neglected in nearly all 
the adaptations! 

In one of my earlier efforts at system construction I per- 
petrated even a greater crime against phonetics than this. 
As already mentioned, I assigned no less than four little 
downward curves to the aspirate, which was certainly a 
generous provision for such an unimportant element, es- 
pecially in a system in which the vowels were expressed in 


the outlines. That was bad enough ; but I went a step far- 
ther and expressed th by joining t to hi When th was writ- 
ten in full in this way most of the outlines containing it 
were simply atrocious; and it was necessary to omit h, as 
was done in the Duployan adaptations. This was worse 
than the plan adopted by most of the Duployan adapta- 
tions, bad as that was, because in these adaptations the omis- 
sion of the dot did not change the form of the word; but af- 
ter a student had acquired the habit of joining two strokes 
for th it was difficult for him to drop one of them. When he 
did drop it, the form of the word underwent a radical 
change. Every experienced writer and teacher will under- 
stand what that meant ! 

In a joined- vowel system the expression of h at the be- 
ginning of a word, where h usually occurs, is unimportant. 
If happy becomes 'appy — or hope becomes 'ope — there can 
be no possible misreading; but its omission in th, a sound 
which may occur in any part of a word, is a very serious 
matter, as will be seen from the illustrations already given. 

In breaking away from the Duployan plan of slighting 
th I was probably influenced by my previous knowledge of 
other systems, but I think that what impressed me with the 
absurdity of expressing the single sound of th by two char- 
acters, or expressing it in practice by t, was the criticism 
of that expedient by all writers of Phonography. It was 
manifestly a violation of phonetics, which no argument 
could overcome. 

The reasons which governed the assignment of the char- 
acters to express r, I, p, b, f, v, k, g, sh, ch, j, s, and th have 
now been given. I have purposely reserved n and m, t 
and d for the last. 

N and M. In explaining the process of reasoning which 
led to the discovery of the blending principle, I said that 
the principle was tested on every possible combination of 


letters. These tests demonstrated conclusively that by far 
the best results were obtained by assigning the horizontal 
lines to n and m, and the upward lines to t and d. This allo- 
cation yielded the beautiful and facile blends for ten, den, 
tern, dem, ent, end, emt, emd — and eliminated obtuse angles 
which have been execrated by shorthand writers since the 
beginning of shorthand history. It also promoted curvi- 
linear motion to a remarkable extent. 

By the way, if you go back to the longhand illustrations 
of the vowels and consonants, you will notice that the curve 
used for ent, end, is the finishing curve of the oval, and of 
nearly every letter in longhand. It is peculiarly fitting, 
therefore, that it should express ent, end, mt, md, which 
are generally terminal. 

The relationship of sound between n and m is very close ; 
they are also of similar appearance in longhand, and are, 
therefore, very easily mastered and associated mentally. 
Speaking of these letters, Isaac Pitman in his address on 
"The Science of Shorthand" (Shorthand Society, London, 
1884) said: 

M and n are not only side by side in the alphabet, but 
like loving sisters, they walk through the language hand in 
hand. These affinities must be regarded in the selection of 
signs to represent the sounds, so that the letters may run 
easily into each other as the sounds do. 

It will be recognized that the dictum of the author of 
"Phonography' 7 applies more strongly to the representation 
of n and m in Gregg Shorthand than it does to his own sys- 
tem. In our system n is expressed by a short horizontal 
stroke and m by a long horizontal stroke, corresponding 
to the difference in their size in longhand and to the length 
of the sounds of these letters. The tables given in the pre- 
vious chapter show that n has more than double the fre- 


quency value of m; therefore n should be expressed by a 
short sign and m by a long one. 

I have now stated the reasons for the assignments of the 
characters to the consonants. The next chapter will deal 
with the representation of the vowels. 



In chapters Seven, Eight, and Nine I presented in con- 
siderable detail the argument in favor of joined vowels. 

The joining of the characters for the sounds, consonants, 
and vowels, as they occur in the word is so natural and 
logical that there is only one possible reason for disjoining 
the vowels, which is that the insertion of the vowels would 
lengthen the forms unduly. That was a valid objection 
to the earlier systems containing joined vow r els, and also 
to some of the more recent systems in which the vowels 
were represented by strokes; but, as I have shown in 
previous chapters, that objection was eliminated by the use 
of more facile material, and a more scientific use of that 

The speed and accuracy records made by young writers 
of Gregg Shorthand in the national shorthand speed con- 
tests — records that have never been equaled by writers of 
any disjoined- vowel systems, or, in fact, of any other sys- 
tem, have demonstrated decisively that joined- vowels do 
not necessarily entail a loss of speed. In Chapter Nine I 
explained how joined vowels were conducive to speed, when 
expressed scientifically. 

The origin and development of the use of the circles and 
hooks as the logical material for the expression of the 
vowels was traced in some of the earlier chapters. This 
method of expressing vowels originated with the early 



English shorthand authors, but in France — through Conen 
de Prepean, Aime Paris, and Duploye — the principle 
gradually evolved into a more and more perfect adaptation 
to the needs of the French language. 

The use of diacritical marks to distinguish slight differ- 
ences of sound probably suggested itself to French short- 
hand authors because diacritical marks are used so much in 
French to indicate the accent of vowels, and in the French 
shorthand systems diacritical marks are used to indicate 
differences in the nasal sounds, an, en, in, on, un, as well as 
the vowels. 

In the adaptations of the French systems to English 
the diacritical marks wTre used without any scientific 
classification of the vowels. In the Sloan-Duployan, a dot 
was used above a vowel to mark a short sound ; a dot below 
to mark a medium sound and sometimes a long sound; and 
a horizontal dash was also used. It was a haphazard 

The Origin of the Vowel Groups. — In the "Story of 
Gregg Shorthand" I referred to the fine accomplishments in 
school of my brother George and my sister Fanny, the latter 
having taken first prize every year in the girls' school she 
attended, and George having secured first place every year 
with the exception of one year w T hen he won second place. 
George died in New Zealand of tuberculosis at the early age 
of twenty-four, and Fanny died in Glasgow two years 
later. Fanny was the only one of the family who dis- 
played any conspicuous ability as a speaker or musician, 
and it was through her study of elocution and singing that 
she became a member of the faculty of the Glasgow In- 
stitution for the Deaf and Dumb. I believe it was owing 
to the extraordinary zeal and enthusiasm with which she 
devoted herself to the great and beneficent calling that she 
so exhausted her strength that she passed away when but 


twenty-eight years of age. I had then, and have now, a 
profound reverence for her abilities, and a still more pro- 
found reverence for her many lovable qualities both of 
heart and mind. 

Kindly in nature as they were, my three brothers looked 
upon my enthusiasm for shorthand as a species of mania. 
That I had the audacity to dream of attempting the con- 
struction of a new system, even if for my own use only, 
seemed to them the quintessence of folly, and it afforded 
them endless opportunities for merriment at my expense. 
At such times it was to Fanny that I went for consolation. 
While not in the least interested in shorthand, she was al- 
ways sympathetic and encouraging. Looking backward, 
I can now understand that, as a true teacher, she knew 
that any subject in which I became really interested, and 
to which I devoted continuous attention, would be likely 
to aid my mental development. 

One of the problems I discussed with her was the classi- 
fication of the vowels. That was a subject on which she 
could speak with authority, by virtue of her studies and 
her daily work in teaching the deaf and dumb. At that 
time I was putting the finishing touches on ''Script Pho- 
nography," in which I had adopted for the most part the 
Duployan arrangement of the vowels and also to a large 
extent the unsystematic arrangement of them in. the lead- 
ing adaptation of Duploye. 

On account of my previous experience with the grouping 
or pairing of the vowels in Pitman's Shorthand, I was 
dissatisfied with the unsystematic manner of distinguishing 
the shades of sound by dots above, dots below, and hori- 
zontal dashes, and dots inside circles and loops employed 
in Sloan-Duployan. Fanny patiently explained the rela- 
tionship of the various vowel-sounds, showed me some 
books which she had on, the subject, and suggested the 


grouping which I incorporated in the system on which I was 
then working, and which I retained in Light-Line. 

I shall devote a few paragraphs to an explanation of 
this plan of grouping the vowels. To quote from the Gregg 
Shorthand Manual, "In writing by sound, there are twelve 
distinct vowels, which are arranged in four groups, each 
group consisting of three closely-related sounds." 

Now as to the method of grouping the vowels: 

Group One. The first group consists of a, a, a, as in at, 
art, ate. Since these three sounds of a, as well as others, 
are written and printed with exactly the same character in 
the English language without confusion, and in Gregg Short- 
hand the number of sounds of a represented by one char- 
acter is restricted to three, it is even more exact than long- 
hand. The grouping of these three sounds of a not only 
simplifies the learning of the system, but simplifies the 
reading of it. 

Even authorities on phonetics are often puzzled over the 
exact sound of a in senate, palace, bondage, desolate, and 
thousands of other words; and it will be obvious that the 
expression of these sounds by the same character in prac- 
tice relieves the student of a very puzzling element in the 
study of shorthand. The language itself is fluid and flex- 
ible — particularly in the vocal sounds — and there is a de- 
cided advantage in relieving the shorthand student of pho- 
netic problems of this kind. 

Group Two. The second group consists of i, e, e, as in 
pit, pet, peat. This is a logical grouping. In his "Art of 
Phonography" Mr. Munson devotes a long paragraph to 
showing the close relationship between i and e. He says: 

The sound of e in term, and its precise equivalent, the 
sound of t in mirth, are provided with two signs, the light 
dot and the light dash in the second place, it being op- 
tional with the writer which shall be used. 


The relationship of e and e is also commented upon by 
Mr. Munson, and he gives a long list of words to illustrate 
this relationship — elude, economy, elastic, becalm, below, 
demean, secure, acme,eolian, as well as some words in which 
i is used in ordinary writing, such as finance, divide, pacify. 
It seems to me that a close study of these words will be suf- 
ficient to show how logical is the grouping of the sounds in 
our system. As has been frequently pointed out by pho- 
neticians and lexicographers, there is a tendency to shorten 
6 in many words where formerly it was given the long 
sound, e. g., in been, becalm, below, and other words begin- 
ning with be. 

The expression of both these closely-related sounds in 
our system not only relieves the student of a very puzzling 
element in the study of shorthand, but establishes uniform- 
ity in the shorthand forms used in all parts of the English- 
speaking world. 

Group Three. This group consists of 6, 6, 6, as in hot, 
orb, oar. This is a very natural grouping and a very sug- 
gestive one, both in the writing of shorthand and in the 
reading of it. It eliminates hesitancy in writing words 
about which there may be a doubt as to the exact vowel 
sound, as economy, oblivion — and many other words. 

Group Four. This group consists of u, do, do. The close 
relationship here will be seen by pronouncing tuck, took, 
tomb. It is so logical and natural that I do not need to 
discuss it. 

I may add, incidentally, that the simplicity of our vowel 
grouping is one of the secrets of the remarkable success of 
the system in the writing of foreign languages — notably 
Spanish, for which language it has been adopted exclu- 
sively by the United States Government in the high schools 
of Porto Rico. 

A point that is not understood by writers of disjoined- 


vowel systems is this: that in most words there can be but 
one possible vowel. For example, g-a-t is read instantly as 
gate, because there is no such word as gat; l-a-t, as late, 
because there is no such word as lat; k-i-t, as kit, because 
there are no such words as ket or keet — and so on ad in- 
finitum. After the student has written the forms for gate, 
late, etc., two or three times, he recognizes them at sight — 
no analysis is needed. And even when the form expresses 
two words, as led and lead x the context in nearly every in- 
stance tells explicitly what the word is, as: "He led the 
way,'' or, "He will lead the way." (It will be noted that in 
this instance, as in many others, the same form for both 
sounds is used in longhand, as in the sentences: "He will 
lead the way." "Let me have a lead pencil." "He is work- 
ing in a lead mine.") 

Material Used Scientifically. — Much more important 
than the grouping of the vowels was the radical change 
which I made in the manner of using the material — circles 
and hooks — for the expression of the vowels or vowel- 

In the French systems of Duploye, Aime-Paris, and 
others, the small circle expresses a and the large circle, o; 
and other vowels were expressed by hooks in various 
directions. That plan was followed in the various adapta- 
tions of the French systems to English ; and it was the one 
adopted in my early experiments. The investigation of the 
frequency of the various sounds, described in Chapter Fif- 
teen, revealed the fact that this allocation was utterly un- 
scientific because "the figures showed that short i occurred 
twice as often as any other vowel sound and occurred as 
frequently as all the vowel sounds of a combined ; and that 
if the short e and the long e were grouped with the short i, 
the frequency-value of the sign expressing the group was 
vastly greater than that of any other vowel or group of 


Therefore, the logical manner of expressing that par- 
ticular group (i, e, e) , was to assign to it the most facile 
sign, the small circle. The a group came next in frequency, 
and therefore the logical representation of that group was 
the next most facile sign — the large circle. 

There remained the expression of the 6, aw, 5 group, and 
the u, do, oo group. Here again a radical change from 
former practice was necessary. Based on the analysis of 
the oval or ellipse, given in a previous chapter, it was 
easy to see that since 6, aw, 6 occurred more frequently 
than u, do, oo y the familiar downward turn, in the form of 
a small hook, should express the former group, and the less 
frequent upward turn should express the latter group. 

I could spend a good deal of time explaining the enor- 
mous advantages derived from this departure from the old 
methods of using circles and hooks, but I believe it is 
unnecessary to do so. 

The Four Distinctive Features. — There are four im- 
portant differences between our system and other joined- 
vowel systems in which the circles and hooks are used for 
the expression of the vowels: 

First. The circles and hooks are assigned to the vowels in 
Gregg Shorthand in accordance with the frequency-value 
of the sounds and the facility-value of the material. In the 
old phrase, "the most facile characters are assigned to the 
most frequently-occurring sounds." This was not the case 
with any previous system. 

Second. There is uniformity in the method of marking 
the distinctions between the shades of sound, the marks 
being always placed beneath the vowel instead of above 
and below. There is a decided gain through the uniformity 
of practice. This was not done in any previous system. 

Third. The use of the acute accent mark to indicate the 
long sound of the vowel — a very natural and suggestive 


plan which was not used by any system prior to the 
publication of "Light-Line Phonography. " 

Fourth. The vowels are classified scientifically in ac- 
cordance with the nature of the sounds. The Lingual 
Vowels (a, a, a, l, e y e), so called because they are formed 
mainly by the modulation of the tongue, are expressed by 
circles; the Labial Vowels (5 aw } 6, u, do, 6o,) } so called 
because they are formed mainly by the modulation of the 
lips, are expressed by hooks. This scientific division of the 
two classes of vowel sounds had not been made in any 
joined-vowel system prior to "Light-Line Phonography." 



The whole drift of modern science and art is towards 
naturalness. To copy the simplicity of Nature is found 
to be the highest wisdom. — David P. Lindsley 

Seeing that the value of each of the principles discussed 
in this book has been so generally acknowledged by authors 
and advocates of nearly all systems of shorthand, as shown 
by the quotations from their writings, the question 
naturally suggests itself: Why have not these principles 
been generally adopted in the construction of shorthand 

The answer is to be found in the conservatism with which 
mankind approaches a new thought or a new invention. 
As one writer puts it, " If the experience of centuries has 
taught us anything at all, it has taught us that mankind 
would rather think in a groove, and think large and at 
random, because the former is easier and the result more 
likely to conform to popular precedents." Bagehot, in 
11 Physics and Politics," says: " One of the greatest pains 
to humanity is the pain of a new idea. It is so ' upsetting ' 
— you do not know at once w T hich of your old ideas it will 
or will not turn out." 

Illustrations of this trait of human nature are to be found 
in the story of almost every forward step since recorded 
history began. You have probably seen engravings show- 
ing the quaint-looking railway carriages used in the early 



days of the railways. They were very obviously patterned 
after the style of the coaches of that period, and many 
years passed before the builders of railway carriages ven- 
tured to depart from the stagecoach model. 

Man moves forward timidly, hesitatingly, from the 
known and familiar, until by a series of successive steps, 
his invention approaches perfection — sometimes, however, 
through a radical departure from the path along which he 
moved in his earlier experiments. 

Sir Isaac Pitman, in the last year of his life, in advo- 
cating certain " improvements " or " changes " in his system 
which were opposed by his sons, who then had control of 
the business established by him, wrote: 

In every reform, or " change," opposition springs up from 
personal considerations, vested interests, and the trouble of 
lifting oneself up a few inches to get out of the rut or groove 
of life which we have made for ourselves by long " use and 
wont." All these considerations have obstructed the adop- 
tion of the present batch of Phonographic Improvements, 
and they have proved the more formidable from the fact 
that the " old style " has been in use thirty-two years. 

The Scientific Reason. — The truth of all this is known 
to everyone ; and the scientific explanation of it is put in a 
very simple way by Arthur Brisbane in an article on " The 
Brain, " in the course of which he said: 

As time passes, the substance of which your brain is 
made " sets," becomes, mentally speaking, hard, like con- 
crete. After a certain age a man cannot change his 
opinions. He thinks he doesn't want to, but in reality 
he cannot. 

Between twenty and thirty and forty educated men receive 
new ideas easily; after that, with difficulty or not at all. 
Unless an opening has been made into the brain, through 
which the truth may go, in youth, the truth cannot get in 
later. Hence the importance of having what is contemptu- 


ously called " a smattering of general information and 
general opinions." Each " smattering " may leave a hole to 
let in the light later. Uneducated men rarely accept a new 
thought after twenty-five. Beyond that age they can 
hate, but think with difficulty. That makes mobs so 

When Harvey announced that the blood circulated 
through the body, pumped by the heart, any fool, you 
would say, should immediately have recognized the truth 
of Harvey's discovery. 

Yet that truth, so plain to us, was denied by all the 
" great doctors " of Europe, except some of those under 
forty years of age. The minds of the others had settled 
into solid concrete. 

Dr. Frank Crane declares: " No reform ever succeeds in 
the generation to which it is proposed. That crop of 
adults has to die off. It is only the next crop that is 
qualified to carry on the new idea. This accounts for the 
fact that all reforms go in weaves, in tidal waves about 
thirty years apart." 

Incidentally, we may add that this applies to shorthand 
more than to most subjects, because shorthand involves 
physical expression of the thought. After a time the 
physical response to the mental impulse becomes subcon- 
scious and automatic, like walking, and it is exceedingly 
difficult to think in forms, or to use forms, other than those 
with which the mind and hand have become familiar by 
" long use and wont." 

This explains why it is that every system of shorthand 
that has attained distinction in any language or country, 
by reason of its originality, has been the product of youth. 
The most popular of the German systems, that of Gabels- 
berger, was originated when its author was twenty-seven; 
the most popular of the French systems, that of Emile 
Duploye, was produced when its author was twenty-six ; the 
most popular system in England, that of Isaac Pitman, 


was published when its author was twenty-four; and the 
most popular system in America was published when its 
author was twenty. 1 

As far back as May, 1904, I printed these verses on the 
editorial page of the Gregg Writer, without comment: 

By Samuel Walter Foss 

One day, through the primeval wood 

A calf walked home, as good calves should, 

And made a trail all bent askew, 

A crooked trail, as all calves do; 

Since then three hundred years have fled, 

And I infer the calf is dead. 

But still he left behind his trail, 

And thereby hangs my moral tale. 

The trail was taken up next day 

By a lone dog that passed that way; 

And then a wise bell-wether sheep 

Pursued that trail o'er vale and steep, 

And drew the flock behind him, too, 

As good bell-wethers always do. 

And from that day, o'er hill and glade, 

Through those old woods, a path was made; 

1 Isaac Pitman was but a mere stripling schoolmaster of twenty- 
four when he issued his unpretentious " Stenographic Sound-hand," 
destined to revolutionize the shorthand methods of his time. His 
American adapter and rival, Andrew J. Graham, was a youth of 
twenty- three when he issued, in 1854, his first shorthand work. 
John Robert Gregg, he of " light-Line " fame, is credited with the 
mature age of twenty-one or thereabouts when he set about to 
astonish the shorthand world. — Charles Currier Beale, in The 
Phonographic Magazine, July, 1903. 



And many men wound in and out, 
And dodged and turned and bent about, 
And uttered words of righteous wrath 
Because 'twas such a crooked path. 
But still they followed — do not laugh — 
The first migrations of that calf, 
And through this winding woodway stalked, 
Because he wobbled when he walked. 


This forest path became a lane, 
That bent and turned and turned again; 
This crooked lane became a road, 
Where many a poor horse with his load 
Toiled on beneath the burning sun, 
And traveled some three miles in one. 
And for a century and a half 
Trod in the footsteps of that calf. 

The years passed on in swiftness fleet, 

The road became a village street, 

And this, before men were aware, 

A city's crowded thoroughfare; 

And soon the central street was this 

Of a renowned metropolis, 

And men two centuries and a half 

Trod in the footsteps of that calf. 


Each day a hundred thousand rout 

Followed this zigzag calf about, 

And o'er this crooked journey went 

The traffic of a continent. 

A hundred thousand men were led 

By one calf near three centuries dead. 

They follow still his crooked way 

And lose one hundred years a day; 

For thus such reverence is lent 

To well-established precedent. 



A moral lesson this might teach 
Were I ordained and called to preach; 
For men are prone to go it blind 
Along the calf-paths of the mind, 
And work away from sun to sun 
To do what other men have done. 
They follow in a beaten track, 
And out and in, and forth and back, 
And still their devious course pursue 
To keep the path that others do. 
They keep the path a sacred groove, 
Along which all their lives they move; 
But how the wise old wood gods laugh, 
Who saw the footprints of that calf! 
Ah! Many things this tale might teach, 
But I am not ordained to preach. 

The thought I had in mind when I printed these verses 
was that the reference to " a trail bent all askew," a path 
that " dodged and turned and bent about," " a zigzag path," 
and so on, would be read with appreciative chuckles by the 
writers and teachers of our system, which was then meet- 
ing with the determined opposition of the united forces of 
those interested in the maintenance of the old-style systems. 

Origin of Geometric Styles. — Quite recently — and 
since the preceding chapters of this book were written — 
I had occasion to make some investigations of the Tironian 
notes, which were in use before the birth of Christ, and 
also of the English systems of the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries, for the purpose of preparing a brief history of 
shorthand. In the course of these investigations I became 
convinced that the authors of the earliest English systems 
were not only inspired to attempt the revival of the art by 
reading Plutarch's statement that the debates on the 
Catiline Conspiracy, in the Roman Senate, b. c. 63, were 


reported in a brief form of writing (as acknowledged by 
Dr. Timothy Bright, the author of the first English system, 
in his dedication of his work to Queen Elizabeth), but 
had actually imitated the characters of the ancient Roman 
shorthand writing in the construction of their alphabets. 

While there is not much, if any, trace of the Tironian 
notae to be found in Bright's " Characterie," (1588), which 
consists largely of arbitrary marks, the first alphabetic 
system, the " Stenographic M of John Willis (1602) , contains 
unmistakable evidence that it was founded on the Roman 
stenographic characters. 

When this theory became a conviction, I was interested 
to note that, with one exception, subsequent authors, for 
two hundred years, pursued the " bellwether " path of 
Willis, who had followed the zigzag " calf-path " made by 
Tiro more than seventeen centuries before! I do not think 
that in all history there is to be found a more striking 
illustration than this of the way man follows the beaten 
path of " well-established precedent." 

The evolution of the art of shorthand through several 
centuries can be clearly traced. It is true that at times 
the art has strayed into by-paths or blind alleys, but 
nevertheless the student of shorthand history can find, 
century after century, evidences of gradual progress in 
some direction. Sometimes a principle which was con- 
demned or ridiculed in the life-time of its author received 
universal acceptance when revived later and applied in a 
more practical form. 

" What is natural survives," and it was inevitable that, 
as time went on, the trend of shorthand construction would 
be towards principles which were in accord with the 
natural movements of the hand in writing, but the steps 
taken in that direction have been slow, hesitating, and 


The Evolutionary Steps. — The processes of evolution 
in shorthand, as I see them, were as follows: 

The first step was the derivation of the characters of the 
Tironian notes from the majuscules, or capital letters, of 
the Latin writing of that time. The minuscule, or small 
letters that could be joined, and which were written in one 
direction — our current running hand — did not come into 
general use until the ninth century. As the majuscules of 
Latin are«drawn in all directions, e.g., V, A, T, the short- 
hand characters derived from them were written in all 
directions — back slope, forward slope, and vertical. 

The second step was the imitation of the Tironian notes 
by the early English authors, and, consequently, the adop- 
tion of the majuscule basis, which imposed upon the art 
for centuries the multi-sloped style of shorthand writing. 

The third step was the very evident progress, through a 
series of early English systems, toward the expression of 
each letter in the alphabet by a single character. (The 
first alphabetic system, that of John Willis (1602), con- 
tained no less than nineteen compound forms for the 
twenty-six letters represented in the alphabet of that 
system.) This is probably the most clearly-defined step 
of any. 

An interesting illustration is the evolution of "f " and "v." 
In the Tironian notae the letter " v " was expressed by two 
strokes — a back-slope stroke and a forward up-stroke, in 
imitation of the Latin capital " V." Beginning with John 
Willis in 1602, the compound sign used by Tiro for " v " 
was adopted by E. Willis, (1618), Witt, (1630), Dix, 
(1633), Mawd, (1635), Shelton, (1641), Metcalfe, (1645), 
Farthing, (1654) , and more than a score of other authors of 
early English systems, and continued in use for that very 
purpose, and in that very form, down to and including the 
noted system of James Weston, published in 1727. A 


forward step in the evolution of the form for " v " was 
taken in 1672 by William Mason, when he dropped the 
upward stroke and used only the single back-slope char- 
acter. This was so brief and practical that it was adopted 
by the two most famous authors of the eighteenth century r 
John Byrom and Samuel Taylor, as well as by Lewis, 
Floyd, Dodge, Gould, Hinton, Moat, and others. All these 
authors expressed / or v by the same sign. 

Then, with Molineux's " Introduction to Byrom's 
Shorthand" (1802), we have still another evolutionary 
step. Molineux said: " The next consonant is / or v, the 
latter being in general represented by the same mark as 
/; although, occasionally, it may be useful to distinguish 
from the former by making the stroke a little thicker" 
Molineux gave the same direction for distinguishing 
between s and z, " which were signified by one and the 
same line, the letter z being made a little thicker than the 
s." William Harding, in his edition of the Taylor system 
(1823), published after the death of Taylor, adopted 
Molineux's expedient for distinguishing between / and v by 
shading the latter, and also the same method of distinction 
between s and z } which were previously written alike. 

Isaac Pitman studied the Harding edition of Taylor, and 
in the first edition of his system in 1837, which was called 
" Stenographic Sound-Hand/' he used the same signs as 
Harding for / and v — the straight back-slope character, 
written light for / and heavy for v . In a later edition he 
changed the form to a back-slope curve. 

Another very interesting letter to trace through its 
various processes of evolution in the earlier systems is the 
letter r. Edmund Willis represented r by one of the script 
forms for that letter. As time went on, this was modified 
until it assumed the form of a straight upward stroke, with 
a little tick before it, resembling the check-mark used by 


bookkeepers. Even Isaac Pitman, in his first alphabet, 
used this check-mark sign for r; but he gave, as an 
alternative, the upward stroke without the tick. After a 
while it was found that the tick was unnecessary, and it 
was dropped. 

The fourth step was the gradual acceptance of the 
principle of " writing by sound," and the provision of char- 
acters that rendered it possible to express the phonetic 
sounds. The author of the very first system of alphabetic 
shorthand, John Willis (1602), said: " It is to be observed 
that this art prescribeth the writing of words, not according 
to the orthography as they are written, but according to 
their sound as they are pronounced." As the alphabets of 
the early English systems were not arranged on a phonetic 
basis, since they provided characters for c (which is 
sounded as k, could, or s, cease), q y (which is pronounced 
kw) x, (which is pronounced ks), and did not provide char- 
acters for simple sounds like sh, th, ch, it was impossible to 
carry out the direction to write words " according to their 
sound." Most of the early authors recognized this, and 
contented themselves with directing the student to " omit 
silent letters." It was not until the end of the eighteenth 
and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries that the 
negative statement of the principle, " omit silent letters," 
was changed to the positive " write by sound," and that 
characters were provided which enabled the direction to be 
carried into effect. — Holdsworth and Aldridge, (1766), 
Conen de Prepean, (1816), Phineas Bailey, (1831), Town- 
drow, (1835), Pitman, (1837). 

The fifth step was the arrangement of the consonantal 
characters according to their phonetic relationship: thus, 
p, b, t, d, etc., — Holdsworth and Aldridge (1766), Conen 
de Prepean, Byrom, Pitman, and others. 

The sixth step was the founding of the characters of the 


alphabet partly upon modern cursive longhand forms 
instead of upon the ancient Roman capitals. Even the 
alphabet of John Willis (1602) took a hesitating step in 
this direction in the expression of y by a character that 
imitated the small y of current writing. Other authors 
extended the use of cursive characters to r, h, and other 

That forward, running characters were more facile than 
back-slope characters was recognized early in the history 
of modern shorthand. This is shown by the fact that 
characters on the natural slope of writing, or with an 
onward movement, were given the preference in the repre- 
sentation of frequently-occurring letters. One of the most 
noted and talented of shorthand authors, John Byrom, 
M. A., F. R. S., who taught his system to many dis- 
tinguished people (among whom were John and Charles 
Wesley), for many years, though the system was not pub- 
lished until 1767, several years after his death, said: 
" The other th, [a back-slope character] by reason of our 
customary method of leaning the letters the contrary way 
in common writing, is not so readily made" etc. 

The first system founded wholly upon a cursive basis was 
that of Simon Bordley (1787), but as it was buried in a 
formidable treatise called " Cadmus Britannicus," it 
escaped attention. It was not until 1802, when Richard 
Roe published " A new system of shorthand, in which legi- 
bility and brevity are secured upon the most natural 
principles, especially by the singular property of their 
sloping all one way according to habitual motion of the 
hand in common writing," that the cursive principle was 
stated boldly and definitely as a basic principle in short- 
hand construction. 

But the new principle, as expounded by Roe, was almost 
foredoomed to failure. In the first place, the limitations 


of shorthand material, as known at that time, seemed to 
render the application of the principle utterly impracti- 
cable; in the second place, Roe's system, like most first 
ventures in a new direction, was a very crude production; 
in the third place, and most important of all, it was placed 
before the public at a time when the older geometric styles, 
after two hundred years of progression, had reached a high 
degree of development, and were being used by Thomas 
Gurney and others for professional reporting. 

One can easily imagine that the shorthand authors and 
writers of that time viewed Roe's work in very much the 
same spirit as those who had developed the gas balloon to 
a high state of perfection regarded the theories of Langley, 
Wright, and others, who believed that it was possible to 
construct a " heavier-than-air " machine. 1 Why waste 
time with " cranks " who held such preposterous notions? 

But the principle enunciated by Roe did not die. In 
1816, Thomas Oxley made an attempt to give effect to it; 
and a few years later the great Bavarian author, Franz 
Xavier Gabelsberger, produced a system based on the 
current hand, which either in its original form or in modifi- 
cations of it, soon became almost universally used in 
Germany and all other European countries, with the excep- 
tion of France and Spain. French writers have asserted 

1 Speaking of the invention of the aeroplane, the Chicago 
Tribune said: 

Professor Langley was right in principle and we now applaud 
him, but that didn't keep us from breaking his heart with ridicule. 
We had our tongues in our cheeks when the gentle old man tried to 
go aloft in the aeroplane we dubbed " Langley's Folly " ; we gaped 
in shame and amazement when the Wrights made the " Folly " 
take the air like a bird. Had the Wright brothers failed, we would 
have heaped them with our all too ready sarcasm. But they made 
their objective, so we take credit for advancing the cause of 
aviation ! 


that Gabelsberger derived his inspiration from Oxley's 
work, but this theory may be the outcome of national 

The style of writing in the German systems has a very 
involved and lengthy appearance; but it is, nevertheless, 
much more fluent than the stiff, geometric style. Gabels- 
berger described the writing in his system as consisting of 
" meandering loops and lines, " and that description would 
apply to all other German systems as they are founded 
on the principles laid down by the great Bavarian author. 
It is to this characteristic of the German systems that I 
attribute their failure to attain any real foothold among 
English-speaking people, who are accustomed to a style 
of writing, both in longhand and shorthand, in which there 
is greater simplicity of form than in Teutonic writing. 
Following the publication in England and America of 
adaptations to English of the French system of Duploye, 
an active propaganda was inaugurated in London and 
New York on behalf of adaptations of the German sys- 
tems of Gabelsberger and Stolze, but it was without any 
practical results so far as the advancement of the German 
style of shorthand was concerned. It had one good result, 
however: It directed the attention of British and Amer- 
ican shorthand writers to the success of systems founded 
on the cursive style of writing, as distinguished from the 
old angular and multi-sloped geometric styles. Inciden- 
tally, too, it brought into bold relief the popularity of short- 
hand and the high esteem in which it was held by educated 
people in Germany, as contrasted with the lack of interest 
in the subject in English-speaking countries, where a style 
of shorthand writing then prevailed, which was not in har- 
mony with natural movement. This concentrated at- 
tention on the problem of developing a style of shorthand 
combining the uniformity and fluency of movement of 


ordinary writing with simpler and clearer forms than those 
used in the German systems. 

The seventh step was a very slow and halting one. It 
was towards the joining of vowels and consonants in the 
natural order in which they occur in a word. The expres- 
sion of vowels by strokes in the earlier systems was so 
clumsy that, in seeking relief from the burden of their 
expression, it is not surprising that some of the early 
shorthand authors (Samuel Taylor, for example) went to 
the other extreme of expressing any vowel by a dot. Others 
attempted to give a more definite expression by placing 
dots, " commas," or dashes in various positions alongside 
the consonants, but in practice most of the vowels were 
omitted. In those leisurely days, when shorthand was 
studied for the most part by highly educated and studious 
people as a useful accomplishment for reporting sermons 
and public addresses, or was studied for professional 
reporting purposes over a series of years, the absence of 
vowels was not so keenly felt as in our day. After much 
practice, well-educated people and trained reporters could 
tell almost instinctively when it was wise to insert a vowel, 
or, if a vowel was omitted, they could usually determine 
from the context, or from memory, what the word should 
be, even when the " consonantal skeleton " might 
represent a dozen words. In more recent times, when 
shorthand was studied for the most part by very young 
people for use in business offices, the ridiculous mistakes 
made through the absence of vowels in the shorthand forms 
emphasized the importance of a more adequate representa- 
tion of them. Young people have not the education, dis- 
crimination, or maturity of judgment, necessary to 
" guess " correctly which word out of a possible dozen or 
more represented by the same " consonantal skeleton " was 
dictated. It was this factor, more than any other, which 


gave vitality to the demand in recent years for a more 
definite expression of the vowels. Many amusing illustra- 
tions of the mistakes made by stenographers through the 
omission of vowels were given in the chapter entitled 
" Some Humorous Errors." 

The history of vowel representation might be summa- 
rized as follows: 

Under Disjoined Vowels we might trace the use of the 
disjoined signs for vowels, beginning with the dot for 
" i " in Rich, then the use of " commas " as well as dots, 
the gradual substitution of dashes for "commas"; the 
placing of dots in different position with relation to the 
consonants — at first in five positions, later reduced by 
Byrom to three; the formulation of rules governing the 
use of these dots and dashes before and after consonants; 
and the extension of the phonetic principle to the dots 
and dashes expressing the vowels and diphthongs. 

Under Vowel Indication we might begin with Tiro's 
method of writing the consonant characters at different 
angles to express vowels, and trace the evolution of the 
expedient through Gurney's " vowel-modes " (adopted, in 
part, by Professor Everett) through Pitman's method of 
indicating, in the case of a few characters, where a vowel 
occurred, by writing some letters upward to show that a 
vowel followed it, and other strokes downward to show 
that a vowel preceded it; through Melville Bell to 
Pocknell, Valpy, Browne, and others, who extended this 
expedient to all consonants. But it is hardly necessary to 
do this, as all the so-called " vowel indication " systems 
have passed away. Xone of them did more than indicate 
where a vowel occurred; and any method which does not 
indicate not only where a vowel occurs, but what the vowel 
is — or at least approximately what it is — has no possible 
chance of consideration in these times. 

Another form of " vowel-indication " was by writing words 
in position. As explained in a previous chapter, the 
Pitmanic systems placed words in three positions, each 
position " indicating " that one of about five vowels occurred 
somewhere in the word. This was extended to five positions 


by J. George Cross (1877) and was imitated by a number 
of authors — McKee, Byrne, Chartier. 

Under Joined Vowels we might trace the evolution of 
joined-vowel systems from stroke forms, beginning with 
Tiro, on through Willis and others; the gradual substitution 
of simpler forms, beginning with the use of the circle by 
Blanchard in 1786, until the adoption of the circles, hooks 
and loops, by Conen de Prepean, (1805) Duploye, and 
others, as the most facile and logical material for the 
expression of the vowels; and, later, the use of the circles, 
hooks, and loops for the expression of the vowels in accord- 
ance with the facility-value of the material and the fre- 
quency-value of the vowels represented. 

The eighth step was in the direction of the use of char- 
acters of one thickness. The difficulty of finding material 
to express the letters without resorting to compound forms 
suggested the use of characters of varying degrees of thick- 
ness. When shading was first introduced, it was in har- 
mony with the style of longhand writing then in vogue, as 
may be seen from the specimens of longhand writing of that 
period. As mere artistic productions, some of these speci- 
mens are a delight to the eye, with the broad, sweeping, 
shaded strokes, which could be readily and artistically 
executed by the quill pens then in use. In that leisurely 
age such decorative specimens of ordinary writing naturally 
suggested the use of shading for shorthand characters; but 
the demand for rapidity in more modern times relegated 
the ornate shaded style of writing to the discard. As ex- 
plained in a previous chapter, the apparent gains obtained 
by the use of shading in shorthand were purely illusory, 
as they were more than counterbalanced by the losses. 

The ninth step is the most recent of all, and it has not 
yet received the attention and appreciation that will 
undoubtedly be given it in years to come. It is the prin- 
ciple of founding the writing not only on the uniform slope 
of ordinary writing, but upon the curvilinear motion of 


longhand, as opposed to the angular style of writing. As 
this has been treated somewhat fully in one of the chapters 
of this book, it is not necessary to say more about it here. 

Why Certain Systems Failed. — It is my belief that 
many authors of systems published in the past fifty years 
failed to attain greater success than they did because they 
lacked a controlling ideal. They had in view, for example, 
the elimination of shading, or of position writing, or pos- 
sibly both ; or it may have been the inclusion of the vowels 
in the outline, or the slope-of-longhand theory — or a com- 
bination of any two of these. Whatever it was, they con- 
centrated on one or two phases of the subject without 
having a broad conception of the entire problem. They 
had not the definite ideal of constructing a system based 
throughout on a close analysis of those easy, natural move- 
ments which the experience of mankind has embodied in 
our beautiful longhand writing. None of them, indeed, 
started from the premise that our ordinary writing in all 
its features was the natural basis of a briefer form of 
writing. I speak understanding^ and sympathetically 
about this because at the time of my own early efforts at 
shorthand construction I had not formulated that guiding 

Probably the sequence of the mental operations of many 
authors ran something like this: " I believe in joined 
vowels. That is a natural, logical principle; therefore 
joined vowels there shall be in the system I am going to 
construct. But in introducing joined vowels there may be 
a loss in brevity of form — what can I do to offset that? " 

Then the answer suggested itself: " Why not extend the 
use of shading, of position writing, or of characters of 
different lengths? These expedients can stand a little more 
pressure on them." 

The result of this reasoning was that most of 


these systems contain one or two natural principles on 
which great emphasis is placed, but the gain in this respect 
is offset, and sometimes more than offset, by the extension 
of certain unnatural features. Just to illustrate the em- 
phasis sometimes placed on one natural feature to the 
exclusion of other equally important features, I quote a 
somewhat flamboyant paragraph from the Preface to the 
textbook of a system based " on the slope of longhand " — 
a system for which I was mainly responsible, prior to the 
development of my present system. And it may be well 
for me in doing so to say that the words printed in capitals 
and italics are so printed in the original Preface: 

Regarding the inestimable value of a uniform manual 
movement little need be said. Writing consisting of a 
medley of inharmonious symbols, demanding a constant and 
instantaneous change of movement, and presenting a tumult- 
uous array of straight lines, circles, semi-circles, quadrants, 
ovals', and hooks traced in every possible direction, causes 
by its abrupt and rapid diversity of manual effort a severe 
strain on hand, nerve, and brain, especially distressing when 
the writing is rapid and the effort prolonged. 

And this has been the bane of English shorthand, for 
which practice — practice, persistent, patient, long-suffering 
practice — has been the only antidote; nor antidote can it 
be called, for the physical strain and fatigue of such writing 
arises from a physiological natural law, and remains the 
bitter cup even of the expert. 

What I said about the absurdity of placing the emphasis 
on one or two features, and not on all natural features, 
will be made clear from paraphrases of the above 
highly-italicized statement. Here is a paraphrase of it as 
applied to the elimination of shading: 

Regarding the inestimable value of a uniform light-line 
movement little need be said. Writing consisting of a 
medley of inharmonious symbols, demanding a constant 
and instantaneous change of pressure of the pen, causes, by 


its abrupt and rapid diversity of manual effort, a severe 
strain on hand, nerve, and brain, especially distressing when 
the writing is rapid and the effort prolonged. 

And this has been the bane of English shorthand, for 
which practice — practice, persistent, patient, long-suffer- 
ing practice — has been the only antidote; nor antidote can 
it be called, for the physical strain and fatigue of such 
writing arises from a physiological natural law, and remains 
the bitter cup even of the most expert. 

Now let me paraphrase the statement by an application 
to position-writing: 

Regarding the inestimable value of a uniform position 
for the characters little need be said. Writing consisting 
of a medley of inharmonious symbols, demanding a constant 
and instantaneous change of position above the line, on 
the line, and below the line, causes, by its abrupt and rapid 
diversity of manual effort in placing the forms in different 
positions, a severe strain on hand, nerve, and brain, 
especially distressing when the writing is rapid and the effort 

And this has been the bane of English shorthand for 
which practice — practice, persistent, patient, long-suffer- 
ing practice — has been the only antidote; nor antidote can 
it be called, for the physical strain and fatigue of such 
writing arises from a physiological natural law, and remains 
the bitter cup even of the most expert. 

And a paraphrase of it will make the statements apply 
equally well to curvilinear motion : 

Regarding the inestimable value of a uniform curve 
motion little need be said. Writing consisting of a 
medley of straight lines, demanding a rigid, jerky and 
angular movement, causes, by the absence of that natural 
curve motion to which the hand is accustomed in longhand, 
a severe strain on hand, nerve and brain, especially dis- 
tressing when the writing is rapid and the effort prolonged. 

And this has been the bane of English shorthand for 
which practice — practice, persistent, patient, long-suffer- 
ing practice — has been the only antidote; nor antidote can 


it be called, for the physical strain and fatigue of such 
writing arises from a physiological natural law, and remains 
the bitter cup even of the most expert. 

Keeping this guiding principle in mind — that the ideal 
shorthand system should be " the distilled essence of our 
common calligraphy/' as someone expressed it, — we can 
now understand why so many systems published in modern 
times failed to attain greater success. They failed because: 

1. They eliminated but one or two of the unnatural 
features found in the older systems, and retained all the 

2. While eliminating one or two unnatural features, some 
of them extended the use of other unnatural features far 
beyond the limitations imposed in the older systems. 

Conclusion. — After I had completed the preceding 
chapters of this book, in which the basic principles of the 
system had been fully explained, an event occurred which 
inclined me to " scrap " the entire manuscript. It was the 
winning of the Shorthand Championship by Albert 
Schneider — at the age of twenty. The old saying, " The 
proof of the pudding is in the eating," and the maxim, 
" The public is educated quickly by events, slowly by 
arguments," came to mind. I said, " Why should I print 
a book setting forth an elaborate presentation of the 
scientific principles on which Gregg Shorthand was built, 
when the soundness of those principles has been placed 
beyond all reasonable controversy by the actual achieve- 
ments of its writers." 

But the book has been written, and as I dislike to think 
that it has been a needless expenditure of time and labor, 
I am sending it forth. It may serve a useful purpose in 
furnishing the shorthand historian of the future with data 
on which to base a history in which the evolutionary 
principles may be traced — as distinguished from the mere 


cataloguing of the names and works of the various short- 
hand authors, as is the case with most of the histories that 
have appeared in the past. It may, too, prove of service 
to the advocates of the system in giving reasons for the 
faith within them. 


Aime-Paris, 78, 79, 80, 210, 214 

Aldridge and Holdsworth (" Nat- 
ural Shorthand"), 47, 48 

Anderson, Thomas (" History of 
Shorthand"), 1, 8, 14, 43, 44, 
71, 99, 103, 123, 141, 153, 155, 

Aust, E. P., 53, 54 

Bailey, Rev. Phineas, 152, 158 
Beale, Charles Currier, 62, 162 
Beck, J. T., 145 

Bell, Alexander Melville, 160, 

Crane, William A. (" Crane's 
Script Shorthand"), 6 

Cross, J. G. ("Eclectic Short- 
hand"), 38, 39, 182, 186, 187, 
188, 197 

Davies, Rev. D. S. (" Sonog- 
raphy"), 12 

Dement, Isaac S. (" Dement's 
Pitmanic Shorthand"), 36, 71, 

Deming, Philander, 16, 176 

De Stains, V. D. (" Phoneg- 
raphy"), 153, 155 

Bishop, George R. ("Exact Duploye, Emile (Duploye 

Shorthand), 63, 78, 79, 80, 95, 
197, 198, 202, 205, 210, 211, 

Eames, R. L. (" Steno-Phonog- 
raphy"), 153, 155 

Everett, Prof. J. D. ("Short- 
hand for General Use "), 7, 161, 

Farnell, George, 59, 60 

Gabelsberger, F. X., 63 
Gilbert, Justin, 59 
Cobbin, J. L. ("The People's Graham, Andrew J. ("Standard 
Shorthand"), 55 Phonography"), 4, 36, 46, 47, 

Codington, A. EL, 137 62, 64, 66, 67, 68, 77, 100, 124, 

Cope, E. A., 103, 120, 127 131, 134, 152, 160, 167 


Phonography"), 4, 72, 84, 85, 

Blanchard, William Isaac, 76, 78, 

82, 152, 153 
Bridge, Dr. William D., 56, 152 
Burrows, W. J., 126 
Byrom, Dr. John, 44, 76, 84, 124, 


Callendar, Hugh B, B.A. (" Cur- 
sive Shorthand"), 21, 90, 200 

Clarke, Sir Edward, K.C. 
("Easy Shorthand"), 189 



Guenin, L. P., 79 

Guest, Edwin (" Compendious 

Shorthand"), 7, 38, 83, 181, 

182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 192 
Gurney, Thomas and Joseph, 73, 

76, 77, 81, 99, 131, 132, 133, 

157, 197 

Hallam, Mr. A. McQ., 125 

Halton, T. S, 101 

Harding, William (See Taylor), 

65, 124 
Hill, Thomas, 87, 102, 159 
Holdsworth and Aldridge 

(" Natural Shorthand ") , 47, 

78, 152, 154 
Hotson, John H., 68 
Howard, Jerome B. (See Pitman, 

Benn), 28, 135, 165, 166, 167, 

Hynes, James, 96, 97, 146 

Innes, Hugh W., 29, 38, 197 

Kimball, D., 91, 92, 95, 136, 191 
Kimball, J. N., 122, 167 
Kingston, Alfred, 3, 23, 35 

Lewis, James Henry (" The 

Ready Writer"), 44, 152, 180, 

182, 192 
Lindsley, D. P. (" Lindsley's 

Takigraphy"), 21, 25, 29, 48, 

63, 64, 66, 93, 165, 166, 182, 

186, 187, 217 
Lockett, A. B., 182 
Longley, Elias (" Longley's 

Eclectic Phonography"), 77, 


Mares, George Carl ("Rational 
Shorthand"), 9, 29 

Marshall, Clyde H., 72 

Martin, M. Jean P. A., 18, 19, 
21, 75, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 154, 
191, 203 

Mavor, William Fordyce ( a Uni- 
versal Stenography"), 76, 124 

McDermut, W. E., 36, 64, 87 

McDougall, W., 128 

McEwan, Oliver, 97, 100 

McLachlan, J. E., 121, 122 

Miller, Charles M., 102 

Munson, James E., 28, 37, 62, 77, 
153, 165, 167, 169, 196, 197, 212, 

O'Connor, T. P., M.P., 9 

Oxley, Thomas (" Facilog- 
raphy"), 79, 82 

Parkhurst, Henry M., 4 

Pernin, H. M., 203 

Perrault, 198, 203 

Pettigrew, William, 26, 27, 28, 

Pitman, Benn (system), 6, 28, 
47, 57, 135, 138, 140, 146, 154, 
165, 166, 169, 174, 192, 200, 201 

Pitman, Isaac (system), 3, 32, 

44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 57, 58, 62, 65, 
69, 77, 82, 85, 110, 124, 144, 145, 
146, 147, 151, 153, 154, 156, 
157, 158, 159, 167, 168, 180, 
181, 187, 197, 198, 200, 201, 

Pitman, Isaac and Sons, 8, 23, 35, 

45, 69, 91, 96, 145, 146, 196 
Piatt, Charles T., (" Pitmanic 

Shorthand Instructor"), 171 



Pocknell, Edward (" Legible 
Shorthand"), 83, 123, 126, 135, 
138, 163, 166, 192 

Prepean, Conen de, 19, 78, 79, 80, 
81, 82, 154, 155, 210 

Rasmussen, Julius, 90 

Redfern, F. (" Edeography "), 

143, 197 

Reed, Thomas Allen, 7, 26, 30, 
39, 40, 41, 61, 75, 76, 95, 135, 

144, 146 

Relton, William, 26, 144 
Richter, Henry, 130 
Roe, Richard, 11 
Rogers, W. S., 29 

Sandiford, G. F., 125, 145 
Scott-Browne, D. L., 197 
"Script Phonography," 39, 40, 

41, 194, 198, 211 
Simson, James (" Syllabic Short- 
hand"), 38 
Sloan, J. M. (" Sloan-Duployan 
Shorthand"), 38, 39, 41, 78, 79, 
198, 203, 211 
Soper, Ebenezer (" The Practical 
Stenographer"), 38, 39 

Spencer, Herbert. 89, 131, 133, 

134, 197 
Stackhouse, Thomas, 76, 78, 82 
Stolze, H. Wilhelm, 197 
Strachan, J. D., 118 
Sweeney, P. J., 120 

Taylor, Samuel (See also Hard- 
ing), 43, 44, 45, 46, 57, 65, 69, 
76, 79, 81, 82, 83, 131, 152, 165, 
168, 180, 197, 202 

Taylor, James William (" Com- 
mentary on Pitman's Short- 
hand"), 69, 165, 168, 202 

Thevenot, Coulon de, 80 

Thornton, George H. (" The 
Modern Stenographer"), 35, 
36, 64, 65 

Tironian Notes, 71 

Torrey, Bates, 126 

Van Sant, A. C., 132 
Vogel, Peter, 93, 109 

Westby-Gibson, John (" Eng- 
lish Script Shorthand"), 12 

Willis, John (" The Art of Ste- 
nographie"), 123, 151 

Wright, Theodore R., 161, 195